Soldotna High School football coach Sarge Truesdell knew just what to expect from Nikiski Friday night at Justin Maile Field: A hard-nosed, hard-hitting football game.
The Bulldogs certainly delivered plenty of pop, but the bend-but-don't-break Soldotna defense won the day, propelling the Stars to a 45-0 nonconference victory.
"When your defense plays like ours has, you're going to win football games," Truesdell said. "When you win 45-0, it's because your defense allows your offense to be on the field."
The Bulldogs did have some success moving the ball against Soldotna's defensive unit -- Steve Carlson ground out 113 yards on 29 carries and Billy Anderson churned out another 107 yards on 19 carries -- but three Nikiski drives ended with fumbles, including one with just over a minute to play and the Bulldogs facing first-and-goal from the Soldotna 1-yard line. Nikiski turned the ball over on downs three times inside the Soldotna 35.
"They're playing hard and getting better," Nikiski coach Lee Moore said of his charges, adding that the Bulldogs were able to sustain some drives against a very good Soldotna squad.
"They did a lot of things very well, and we have a number of players playing for the first time in new spots. Some injuries have forced us to shuffle a lot."
The Stars, meanwhile, were settling in with their new-look offense.
"We've put in some plays, and run a lot of them in practice to see what works," Soldotna's Scott Laurion said. "We're confident in our passing game, too, so that helps a lot."
Derek Martin capped the Stars' first drive with a 17-yard touchdown run around the left side, then took on the role of one-man wrecking crew from his fullback position for the remainder of the game. Martin's wicked block downfield 4:18 into the second quarter sprung Ricky Simpson for the first of his three receiving touchdowns, that one a 65-yard connection off a rollout by quarterback Eric Simpson.
In the third quarter, Martin laid out a pair of would-be Nikiski tacklers while escorting Eric Simpson to the end zone on a 35-yard running play. Later in the quarter, Martin made a pair of blocks to help Scott Laurion to a 24-yard run, his longest of the night, setting up the Stars with a first down on the Nikiski 18. Soldotna converted the chance with an 11-yard pass from Eric Simpson to Ricky Simpson.
"Derek's made some big blocks downfield," Laurion said. "He makes a block and keeps on going."
Eric Simpson threw for 209 yards on 8-of-12 passing with one interception, connecting for three touchdowns. Soldotna's Jayce Robertson, taking the snaps in the fourth quarter, also threw for a touchdown.
Soldotna's Ricky Simpson misses a pass under pressure from Nikiski's Zach Womack in the third quarter Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski's best chance to avoid going scoreless in three games game with a little more than a minute left in the contest. On a third-and-eight, Anderson shook loose for a 53-yard gain to give Nikiski a first down on the Soldotna 11. Anderson picked up 10 yards on the next play, but on first-and-goal, Soldotna was able to pounce on a fumbled handoff.
"That's too bad, but those guys worked hard to get it down there," Moore said. "That's sometimes the way you learn -- through adversity. In fact, that's almost always how you learn."
STARS 45, BULLDOGS 0
Nikiski 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Soldotna 7 6 25 7 --0
Sol -- Martin 17 run (Tachick kick), 3:12
Sol -- R. Simpson 65 pass from E. Simpson (kick failed), 7:42
Sol -- N. Gardner 16 pass from E. Simpson (conversion failed), 10:30
Sol -- E. Simpson 35 run (Tachick kick), 9:08
Sol -- Martin 4 run (kick blocked), 6:45
Sol -- R. Simpson 11 pass from E. Simpson (kick failed), 2:50
Sol -- R. Simpson 79 pass from Robertson (Tachick kick), 10:06
First downs 11 11
Rushes-yards 59-240 35-181
Passing yards 0 288
Return yards 25 46
Passing 0-2-0 9-14-1
Punts-avg 5-25.2 2-42.0
Fumbles-lost 6-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 5-34 5-35
Rushing -- Nikiski: Carlson 29-113, Anderson 19-107, Winters 4-14, McGahan 2-10, Curren 2-1, Womack 3-(-5). Soldotna: E. Simpson 4-56, Laurion 9-51, Ghormley 7-32, Martin 10-30, Morris 4-11.
Passing -- Nikiski: Womack 0-2-0--0. Soldotna: E. Simpson 8-12-1--209, Robertson 1-2-0--79.
Receiving -- Soldotna: R. Simpson 5-204, Martin 1-38, N. Gardner 1-16, J. Howarth 1-16; Metteer 1-14.
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