Nikiski senior Ian Johnson knew it was going to be a great game for the Bulldogs when he got up this morning to play in his final game in front of the home crowd.
“I saw it was sunny out and everything just felt right,” he said. “We were ready and played a great game.”
Nikiski forced seven turnovers, scored three defensive touchdowns and Johnson ran for 170 yards and three scores in a 58-14 victory over the Seward Seahawks on Saturday at Nikiski High School. With the win, the Bulldogs clinched the second playoff spot in the Peninsula Conference and will travel to Barrow next Saturday.
The seniors set the tone early for the Bulldogs. Tyler Olsen intercepted the first play of the game and Johnson scored a 20-yard touchdown run three plays later. Olsen scored a hat trick with three picks to lead the defense.
“We played as a team, came together and got it done,” Olsen said.
Nikiski coach Paul Nelson said his defense was “itching to get their first defensive score.” Junior Brock Sarks had two interceptions returned for touchdowns that totaled 139 return yards. Junior Justin Harris had a 65-yard “pick-six” that put the Bulldogs up 33-0 with 10:31 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs ground game amassed 232 yards while Nikiski junior quarterback Michael Eiter added 37 yards in the air on a pair of touchdown passes. Eiter had an interception of his own on defense, which set up his wide-open 30-yard touchdown pass to freshman Caileb Payne on fourth down.
After a 27-7 loss against Eielson in the rain last week, the crisp sunny day was a welcome sight for the Bulldogs home finale. The scene couldn’t be more ideal for fall football with sunshine, a crisp breeze, orange foliage in the field backdrop, an eagle flying over the flag during the national anthem and the smell of grilled burgers in the air.
Nelson said he was pleased with how his seniors responded to his pregame message. The Bulldogs dominated the line of scrimmage throughout the game led by seniors Tyler Litke and Baker Hensley. Junior linebacker Cody Handley added two sacks.
“It was nice to get on the board early and get rolling on offense,” he said. “We played a complete game and our seniors stepped up big today. It was an overall team effort and everyone played well.”
The Seahawks turned the ball over four times in the first quarter and trailed 58-0 after three quarters.
Seward junior Chris Kingsland finished 4-of-10 passing for 137 yards and one touchdown pass, but threw six interceptions. Kingsland completed a pass to freshman Collin Mullaly, who burst down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown for the Seahawks’ first points in the fourth quarter.
Seward Coach Kelly Cinereski said the team only dressed 14 players and a lot of freshmen got into the game against the upperclassmen-heavy Bulldogs.
Junior Beau Freiberg led the Seahawks in carries in the first half until he left the game with a hip injury. Cinereski said Freiberg has played tough all season. Freiberg finished with 12 carries for 38 yards. Shayne Sullivan had 16 carries for 70 yards for the Seahawks, while junior Sage Fergusion scored a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks squandered a chance to get points on the board in the first quarter. After a 46-yard catch and run by junior Gabe Schrock got the Seahawks inside the red zone, a penalty, incomplete pass and sack by an unblocked Litke pushed Seward back to the 43-yard line. Olsen intercepted Kingsland’s pass as the end of the first quarter.
“(Nikiski) played a great game,” Cinereski said. “I hope they go up there and beat Barrow.”
Johnson said the seniors are ready to return to the championship game after their streak of five straight championship game appearances was snapped last year.
Nelson said the team is pumped as they head into the playoffs. Saturday will be Nelson’s first game in Barrow.
“It’s an exciting trip. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to throw at us,” he said. “I’m hoping the weather is as nice as it is today, but I’m thinking not.”
Homer 53, Voznesenka 0
The Homer Mariners dominated another lopsided shutout Friday night over local rival Voznesenka, and in doing so set a new program mark with a 7-1 regular season record, besting their previous highwater mark of 6-2.
The newly crowned Peninsula Conference champion Mariners scored 27 first-quarter points en route to the victory, highlighted by a 48-yard fumble return by Sean Love that put Homer up 20-0 late in the first quarter.
Justin Sumption added a 36-yard pick six late in the second quarter to give Homer a 36-0 advantage at halftime.
When the dust settled, senior Teddy Croft had racked up 250 yards of offense himself, rushing for 144 yards and two touchdowns and hauling in 106 receiving yards and a touchdown, giving him three scores for the day.
Homer receiver Joe Ravin caught two touchdown passes for 92 yards from quarterback Dawson Felde.
Felde had a big day under center, throwing three touchdown passes with 201 yards, and also hauled in two interceptions on defense. Overall, the Homer defense picked off Voznesenka five times.
Voznesenka’s David Sanarov threw three interceptions and Anthony Kalugin was picked off twice. Sanarov led the Cougars offense with 89 rushing yards on 27 carries.
Bulldogs 54, Seahawks 14
Nikiski 27 12 13 0 58
Seward 0 0 0 14 14
Nikiski – Johnson 20-yard TD run (extra point good) 10:42 7-0
Nikiski – Eiter 7-yard TD pass to Berry (extra point failed) 7:41 13-0
Nikiski – Sarks 50-yard interception return TD (extra point good) 6:23 20-0
Nikiski – Eiter 30-yard TD pass to Payne (extra point good) 1:22 27-0
Nikiski – Harris 65-yard interception return TD (extra point blocked) 10:31 33-0
Nikiski – Johnson 23-yard touchdown run (extra point blocked) 00:41 39-0
Nikiski – Johnson 34-yard TD run (extra point no good) 10:40 45-0
Nikiski – Olsen 6-yard TD run (extra point no good) 8:40 51-0
Nikiski – Sarks 899-yard interception return TD (extra point good) 1:00 58-0
Seward – Mullaly 76-yard TD catch on pass from Kingsland (extra point no good) 11:00 58-6
Seward – Fergusion 10-yard TD run (Fergusion 2-point conversion good) 1:27 58-14
Rushing yards 114 260
Passing yards 137 38
Penalties 4-50 3-25
Mariners 53, Cougars 0
Voznesenka 0 0 0 0 —0
Homer 27 7 12 7 —53
Hom — Sumption 14 run (kick failed), 9:22
Hom — Ravin 28 pass from Felde (Johnson kick), 5:04
Hom — Love 48 fumble return (Johnson kick), 2:16
Hom — Ravin 56 pass from Felde (Johnson kick), :45
Hom — Sumption 36 interception return (Johnson kick), 1:13
Hom — Croft 54 pass from Felde (kick failed), 3:54
Hom — Croft 17 run (kick failed), :00
Hom — Croft 85 run (Goana kick), 4:33
First downs 5 14
Rushing 30-84 23-185
Pass yards 29 201
Total yards 113 386
Comp-att-int 5-14-5 9-12-0
Return yards 76 0
Punts 2 2
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties 1-5 2-5
Rushing — Homer: Felde 4-21, Croft 9-144, Sumption 1-14, Fisk 3-13, Heimbold 2-(-6), Cudaback 2-(-1), Kerr 2-0. Voznesenka: Sanarov 27-89, Murachev 1-(-5), Reutov 1-0, Kalugin 1-0.
Passing — Homer: Felde 9-12-0—201. Voznesenka: Sanarov 3-9-3—26, Kalugin 2-5-2—3.
Receiving — Homer: Croft 4-106, Ravin 3-92, Sumption 1-4, Johnson 1-(-1). Voznesenka: Kalugin 2-28, Konev 2-7, Reutov 1-(-6).