There was plenty of snarling, but in the end, the Wolves were no match for the 'Dawgs.
The Nikiski Bulldogs racked up 373 yards of total offense Friday against the Sitka Wolves in a Greatland Conference dogfight that was decidedly one-sided. With the win, the Bulldogs moved to 2-0 in Greatland Conference play and took control of the conference they've dominated in recent years.
"We played really well," Nikiski head coach Ned Clooten said following the Bulldogs 54-0 win.
After getting outscored 12-7 in the second half of last week's 48-12 win over Valdez, Clooten said he was happy to see his squad sustain its early intensity into the second half.
"We played four solid quarters," he said.
Justin Tumbaga and Jared Mazurek again carried the load for Nikiski, each scoring three rushing touchdowns and combining for 231 of Nikiski's 311 yards on the ground.
"They both ran just so hard," Clooten said of his dynamic duo, who found the end zone on six of their 23 total carries.
Mazurek got things started early when he took a Travis McGahan handoff through a gaping hole in the Sitka line, bounced outside and sprinted 33 yards for Nikiski's first touchdown of the game on just its third play from scrimmage. A little over five minutes later, Tumbaga capped a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge that put Nikiski up 14-0 and left no doubt about who was in control of things.
Following the game, Tumbaga gave credit to Nikiski's line for making it easy for Nikiski's backfield to run wild. He said running the ball is easy when the line is keeping the defense on its heels like it did Friday.
"I felt safe," Tumbaga said.
Nikiski's starting line of Reece Parrish, Joe Keith, David Rorrison, John Schwenke, Mike O'Brien and Chad Holloway was the difference on offense Friday, opening big holes on nearly every play. What's even more amazing is that most of them turned around and anchored a defense that had Sitka moving in the wrong direction most of the evening.
"That's iron-man football," Clooten said.
After getting two first quarter touchdowns, the Bulldogs exploded in the second period, getting four touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the first half.
The onslaught began when Mazurek intercepted Sitka quarterback Jason Koelling at the Sitka 38-yard-line. Four plays later, McGahan kept the ball on an option, got a block from one of his receivers, and scored on a 21-yard run.
Nikiski's defense struck again just 28 seconds later, when Israel Blatchford picked off Koelling at the Sitka 45-yard-line. McGahan and Blatchford stayed busy on the next play, hooking up on a 45-yard touchdown strike to make the score 27-0.
Mazurek and Tumbaga each scored rushing touchdowns in the final five minutes of the half to put things out of reach.
After halftime it was more of the same, as both Tumbaga and Mazurek each scored on their only carries of the half before Nikiski emptied its bench.
Despite the lopsided result, however, Nikiski got all it could handle from a scrappy Wolves team that refused to give in against the larger, more-experienced Bulldogs.
"They're a pretty tough team," Schwenke said. "Sitka's always going to come out hard."
Sitka head coach C.H. Romine praised his squad which dished out a number of hard hits and matched Nikiski in intensity for not throwing in the towel.
"They won't quit on me," Romine said. "They're as tough as any kids out there."
Romine said his program is simply not at the level of Nikiski at this point. He pointed out that the Wolves have had four head coaches in four years, and must play with a roster of just 18 players including five underclassmen.
"They're a good team and have had a good program for a long time," he said.
If Sitka wants to become one of the elite teams in the Great Land Conference, it would do well to copy the formula used by the North Road gang, which got notable contributions on both sides of the ball from all of the 19 players who suited up Friday.
Blatchford kicked four extra points. Zech Hemphill held on Blatchford's kicks, made two tackles, forced a fumble and ran in a two-point conversion. Quarterback McGahan was the team's leading tackler and punted once. All-state lineman Schwenke bulled his way for nine yards on one carry. In all, eight players gained positive yards on offense, while 15 Bulldogs made tackles.
"That's what we try to focus on," Clooten said. "Every player, every play."
After getting off to a 2-0 start and outscoring its opponents by a combined 102-12, that philosophy seems to be sinking in with Nikiski's players.
"It's a privilege to play with the Bulldogs," Tumbaga said. "We've got the best hearts on the peninsula."
Bulldogs 54, Wolves 0
Nikiski 14 25 15 0 54
Sitka 0 0 0 0 0
Nik Mazurek 33 run (Blatchford kick), 10:48
Nik Tumbaga 2 run (Blatchford kick), 5:33
Nik McGahan 21 run (Blatchford kick), 8:56
Nik Blatchford 45 pass from McGahan (kick failed), 8:19
Nik Mazurek 13 run (kick failed), 5:02
Nik Tumbaga 10 run (kick failed), 1:40
Nik Mazurek 10 run (Blatchford kick), 9:33
Nik Tumbaga 21 run (Hemphill run), 7:04
First downs 11 3
Rushes-yards 39-311 25-0
Passing yards 62 -5
Return yards 86 0
Passing 2-4-0 2-14-2
Punts-avg 1-35.0 8-28.0
Fumbles-lost 4-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 5-30 13-101
Rushing Nikiski: Tumbaga 13-136, Mazurek 10-95, McGahan 5-33, Payment 6-22, Hemphill 3-17, Schwenke 1-9, Smith 1-(-1). Sitka: Grenberg 5-15, Fondell 2-11, Reeves 6-3, Griffith 2-3, Koelling 10-(-32).
Passing Nikiski: Newby McGahan 2-4-0-62. Sitka: Koelling 2-14-2-(-5).
Receiving Nikiski: Blatchford 1-45, Holloway 1-17. Sitka: Reeves 2-(-5).
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