It was back to basics for the Soldotna High School football squad Saturday at Justin Maile Field.
"Coaches are always telling us to do our jobs correctly," said Soldotna lineman Billy Moiles after the Stars 34-12 nonconference win over Houston.
"If we do that, and we all work together, we'll get things done."
The Stars certainly appeared to be working toward the same end Saturday -- Soldotna's running backs combined for 339 yards on 53 carries, an average of 6.4 yards per carry, and the Soldotna defense stymied a strong Houston offense, holding the Hawks to 55 yards on the ground.
"We worked with our offensive line and we made a little bit of an adjustment with the angle of our running backs," Soldotna coach Rob Dimick said of the fine-tuning the Stars accomplished in practice last week.
The adjustments paid dividends immediately as the Stars scored on the opening drive of the ballgame, covering 72 yards in nine plays. One holding call marred an otherwise perfect drive during which the Stars averaged 9 yards per play and quarterback Pat Rose connected with Cason Simpson for a 12-yard pass play.
Sean Kelley carried the ball three five times for 40 yards and Simpson capped the drive with a 20-yard scamper into the end zone.
"We spent a lot of time working on getting back to the way we were taught to run the ball," Simpson said. "The linemen worked on getting low and the running backs worked on hitting the hole hard. We've got to have faith in the line and just go with it."
The effectiveness of the Soldotna running game even affected the Stars' play-calling.
"On some of our drives, the offense only ran two plays," Dimick said.
Houston put together a four-play scoring drive in the middle of the second quarter, though, and Hawks quarterback Peter Clemens found Shaun Haragan open on the right sideline for a 41-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at six with 5:12 to go in the half.
The Stars went up by eight just before the half, though, when Simpson notched his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run to cap a 13-play, 69-yard drive. Rose added the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper to give the Stars a 14-6 lead heading into the locker room at the half.
While Houston kept the game close in the first half, the Stars scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter over a span of one minute, 50 seconds to put the game away.
Matt DeRaeve slipped through the middle for a 55-yard touchdown run with 3:27 to go in the third and Rose scored on a 16-yard quarterback draw with 1:37 on the clock in the third.
"That's the story of our season," said Houston coach Mat Bredberg. "We're in a game going into the second half and it gets away from us.
"We were afraid of that happening down here -- Soldotna plays smash-mouth football, and they wear you out and wear you out. We just don't have the second half we need to have."
The Stars used their defense to set up their offense. Kyle Karsten's interception set the stage for Soldotna's second touchdown of the third quarter and Shaun Williams picked off a pass to shut down a promising Houston drive in Soldotna territory in the fourth quarter.
Soldotna's down linemen kept Clemens under constant pressure when he dropped back to pass and Dimick was pleased with the run-stopping of inside linebackers DeRaeve and Jared Carlson.
The Stars added one more touchdown, a 20-yard pass from Rose to Kelley, with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Nagel set up the Hawks' final score of the game, returning a Soldotna punt 49 yards to give Houston a first-and-goal from the Stars' 5. Nagel needed just one play to get those final 5 yards for the score.
With the win, Soldotna improves to 2-2 overall. The Stars are 1-0 in the Northern Lights Conference and will host NLC opponent Ketchikan Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Hawks fall to 1-3 overall.
STARS 34, HAWKS 12
Houston 0 6 0 6 --12
Soldotna 6 8 14 6 --34
Sol -- C. Simpson 20 run (kick failed), 8:35
Hou -- Haragan 41 pass from Clemens (kick failed), 5:12
Sol -- C. Simpson 5 run (Rose run), 0:24
Sol -- DeRaeve 55 run (kick blocked), 3:27
Sol -- Rose 16 run (DeRaeve run), 1:37
Sol -- Kelley 20 pass from Rose (pass failed), 5:40
Hou -- Nagel 5 run (pass failed), 2:02
First downs 10 18
Rushes-yards 31-55 53-339
Passing yards 84 60
Return yards 55 0
Passing 6-18-2 6-10-1
Punts-avg 4-24.5 5-19.8
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-0
Penalties-yards 12-90 12-104
Rushing -- Houston: Nagel 13-49, Webb 9-34, Smith 1-(-1), Haragan 1-(-9), Clemens 1-(-13). Soldotna: Kelley 16-108, C. Simpson 15-68, DeRaeve 2-57, Laurion 7-47, Rose 6-35, Karsten 4-22, Moiles 1-3, Morris 1-0, Metteer 1-(-1).
Passing -- Houston: Clemens 6-18-2-84. Soldotna: Rose 6-10-1-60.
Receiving -- Houston: Haragan 4-65, Webb 1-10, Foster 1-9. Soldotna: Kelley 2-11, Williams 1-17, C. Simpson 1-12, Ghormley 1-11, Gleason 1-9.
BYLINE1:By JEFF HELMINIAK
Just how easily did Nikiski move the ball Friday night in its 53-12 Great Land Conference victory over Anchorage Christian Schools?
It was the middle of the third quarter when Bulldogs junior quarterback Josh Reilly sat under center at the Nikiski 26-yard line facing a third-and-three.
As Reilly lifted up his left leg to send a player in motion, he felt a weird locking and stinging sensation in his left calf.
"My calf cramped up right as I was waiting for the snap," Reilly said. "I can run with it -- it just hurts -- so I decided to do the play anyway."
Reilly took the snap, rolled right and saw that, once again, his blockers had sectioned off a wide lane for him to run through. After a stiff arm, he got around the corner and, cramp and all, ran 74 yards to the end zone, where he collapsed in pain.
The play was called back due to a clip down the field, but Reilly's impaired run illustrated how much the Nikiski line owned the Lions' defense.
"We've got 11 guys on defense that have never played before," said ACS coach David Duncan, who resurrected football at the school this year. "We tried five or six different formations to put them in the right spot at the right time, but nothing worked.
"It was just pure experience that made the difference."
ACS had such a hard time disrupting Nikiski on offense that many of the plays looked like those players run through in the pregame when the defense isn't present.
The Bulldogs, who are now 3-0 in the GLC and 4-0 overall, had 490 yards of offense and averaged about 10 yards per rush.
Reilly was just one of Nikiski's offenders to finish with video-game-like numbers. He had 108 yards passing, 75 yards rushing and a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Junior Steven Calderwood rushed for 129 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore Joshua Winters had 107 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries.
"We had some great blocking by our offensive line today," Calderwood said. "If they get me started, I'll finish off the rest.
"Today, they got me the first 5 yards and I did the rest."
Senior quick tackle Seth Tauriainen said the Lions had size and talent on defense, but added they didn't do a lot of little things that come with experience. Those little things added up to big holes.
"When our running backs got going, they were fun to watch," senior quick guard Gabe Lavigueur said. "They were running hard."
Bulldogs coach Scott Anderson said the line's dominating performance was satisfying because Nikiski lost its starting strong guard and strong tackle to injury this week. Junior Nigel Penhale filled in at strong guard, while junior Chris Overhuls plugged the hole at strong tackle.
While the ACS defense was steamrolled, the Lions offense, particularly crafty sophomore quarterback Richard Stafford, turned in a performance that area fans should stick in their pockets and remember. That way they won't be shocked when ACS becomes a formidable opponent in the next few years.
The Lions got 18 first downs against the Bulldogs en route to rolling up 290 yards of total offense.
Their scoring drives were earned, not accomplished on breaking a fluke play here and there. In the second quarter, the Lions went 60 yards on 12 plays to score. In the fourth quarter, ACS hit pay dirt after 87 yards and 10 plays.
Stafford showed a knack for gaining the extra yard or finding a seam in the defense all night, finishing with 85 yards rushing and 84 yards passing.
Senior Adam Lewis had a rushing and passing score for the Lions.
"Their offense broke us a few times," said Tauriainen, who also plays defensive end. "We have to work on that."
Duncan said his team's success on offense comes because playing on that side of the ball takes less experience.
"On offense, I can tell them before the snap that they should run here, or they should block that guy there," said Duncan, whose team is 0-2 in the GLC and 2-2 overall. "We do fine on offense, but defense doesn't work like that and defense keeps you in a game."
The Bulldogs will host Skyview Friday at 5:30 p.m., while ACS will travel to Seward for a 2 p.m. game Saturday.
BULLDOGS 53, LIONS 12
ACS 0 6 0 6 --12
Nikiski 14 13 13 13 --53
Nik -- Reilly 41 run (Seater kick), 10:53
Nik -- Calderwood 7 run (Seater kick), 8:31
ACS -- Lewis 3 run (kick failed), 9:07
Nik -- Reilly 7 run (Seater kick), 8:11
Nik -- Calderwood 3 run (kick failed), 1:44
Nik -- Calderwood 7 run (run failed), 4:55
Nik -- Calderwood 7 run (Seater kick), 1:55
Nik -- Winters 10 run (Seater kick), 11:24
ACS -- Lewis 15 pass from Stafford (kick failed), 7:05
Nik -- Winters 31 run (kick failed), 4:54
First downs 18 14
Rushes-yards 61-206 37-369
Passing yards 84 121
Return yards 30 65
Passing 9-18-2 5-9-1
Punts-avg 4-26 0-0
Fumbles-lost 3-3 5-3
Penalties-yards 6-31 4-50
Rushing -- ACS: Lewis 21-56, Stafford 27-85, McCarty 8-62, Shanahan 1-2, McCrory 3-8, Montgomery 1-(-7). Nikiski: Calderwood 14-129, Crumpacker 6-32, Reilly 5-75, Alexander 1-3, Winters 6-107, Allen 4-24, Sanders 1-(-1).
Passing -- ACS: Stafford 9-18-2-84. Nikiski: Reilly 4-8-1-108, Brigham 1-1-0-13.
Receiving -- ACS: Alden 3-36, Lewis 5-47, Hegge 1-1. Nikiski: Holloway 3-58, Roofe 2-63.
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