Nikiski sophomore running back Rykker Riddall scored four touchdowns and senior captain Luke Johnson recovered a Thunder Mountain fumble from his linebacker position with a minute to play in the game to save the Bulldogs’ 28-21 win over the Falcons in nonconference action Friday night in Juneau.
“Never giving up,” Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said. “We played for 48 minutes and believed that everybody could get something done on the field. We needed everybody, it wasn’t just one guy.”
Nikiski’s line of Jon McCormick, Rueben Sepeda, Luke Johnson, Ian Johnson, Kyle Rosado and Nick Braswell gave the backfield room to run.
“The wall is what we are counting on,” Riddall said. “They are seniors across the wall.”
The Bulldogs, from the small-schools Peninsula Conference, trailed 21-20 with 6:40 remaining in the game and used a 12-play drive to regain the lead.
A 3-yard run by Riddall began the drive, quarterback Cade Anderson threw 15 yards to Hunter Holloway, Corin Cooper picked up 4 yards and Anderson found Nathan Carstens for 4 more.
A key pass interference call on the Falcons on a second-and-15 put the ball on the 15-yard line and Anderson, Cooper and Riddall each carried the ball closer to the goal line with Anderson connecting on a 9-yard pass to Riddall for the go-ahead touchdown. Cooper ran in a 2-point conversion for the 28-21 lead.
The Falcons had the ball with 1:47 left to play and a chance to secure a final home game win on senior night.
Thunder Mountain quarterback Garth Tupou just missed the fingertips of Mahina Toutaiolepo on a long first pass. Two Falcons’ penalties brought a second-and-25 from their own 16-yard line and junior Riley Olsen got 6 yards back. Thunder Mountain fumbled on the next play and Nikiski’s Johnson fenced in the pigskin for change of possession and then took his two-way spot as offensive guard.
Anderson took a knee on successive plays to let the game clock run out for the win.
Riddall rushed for two touchdowns in the first quarter, caught one in the third and the final scoring pass in the fourth.
The Bulldogs’ senior co-captain Jon McCormick had six tackles and one fumble recovery before leaving the game with an injury in the first half.
“It was an unfortunate injury,” Riddall said. “He is the captain of the offensive line. His knee is hurting pretty good but hopefully that is something we can get him back from.”
Nikiski took the opening possession of the game eight plays from their own 32-yard line to score on a 7-yard grind from Riddall.
Both teams went four-and-out on their next possessions and the Falcons fumbled the ball away with Nikiski’s securing the recovery.
Nikiski’s next drive was six plays, with two Thunder Mountain penalties, capped off by Riddall’s 11-yard run.
Thunder Mountain’s Ivan Williams recovered a fumble at 8:02 of the second quarter and the Falcons needed just two plays to score. Q’on Bear-Clark, who had a game-high 172- yards rushing, scrambled 32 yards and Ma’ake Ma’ake finished with an 11-yard run to cut the lead to 14-6. Riley Olsen’s kick added another point.
Nikiski answered with 7:48 remaining before the half, using a 12-play drive capped off by Dylan Broussard taking an Anderson handoff and passing to Riddall for a 20-7 advantage.
The Falcons took the opening kickoff of the second half from their own 35 and marched 10 plays for the score with Tupou keeping the ball on a quarterback plunge.
“When we lost McCormick at linebacker they were running right there,” Riddall said. “I kept telling the team that we had to make one play, just one play at a time. Just stop them one more drive. We are a pretty conditioned team and we believe that we are in it until the end.”
Nikiski churned out three first downs but sputtered out on their next possession and both teams punted before the Falcons ran 10 plays from their own 38-yard line capped off by a Tupou pass to Toutaiolepo to tie the score at 20 in the third quarter. Olsen kicked the extra point for the Falcons’ only lead at 21-20.
Bulldogs 28, Falcons 21
Nikiski 14 6 0 8 —28
T. Mountain 0 7 7 7 —21
Nikiski — Riddall 7 rush (Cooper 2-pt run), 8:51.
Nikiski — Riddall 11 rush (conversion failed), 1:28.
Thunder Mountain — Ma’ake 11 rush (Olsen kick), 7:48.
Nikiski — Riddall 12 pass from Broussard (conversion failed), 2:14.
Thunder Mountain — Tupou 1 rush (Olsen kick), 7:05.
Thunder Mountain — Toutaiolepo 15 pass from Tupou (Olsen kick), 6:40.
Nikiski — Riddall 9 pass from Anderson (Cooper run), 1:52.
RUSHING – Nikiski: R. Riddall 18-102, C. Cooper 7-27, D. Broussard 1-2, D. Anderson 2-2, M. Minium 1(-7); Thunder Mountain: Q. Bear-Clark 25-172, M. Ma’ake 4-24, G. Tupou 4-12, R. Olsen 2-11, S. Olmstead 1-6, M. Toutaiolepo 1-5.
PASSING – Nikiski: D. Anderson 5-7—57, D. Broussard 1-1—12; Thunder Mountain: G. Tupou 4-7—30.
RECEIVING – Nikiski: R. Riddall 2-21, H. Holloway 2-22, I. Johnson 1-19, N. Carstens 1-7; Thunder Mountain: M. Toutaiolepo 3-35.