By delaying the game against Kenai Central, Nikiski was merely delaying the inevitable Friday night at Nikiski High School.
Kenai senior Cory Janson scored four touchdowns and set up another score with a long punt return as the Kardinals buried the Bulldogs 35-0 in nonconference play.
"Cory can do it to you in so many ways," Kenai coach Jim Beeson said after his team improved to 4-1 and defeated Nikiski for the first time since 1996. "He can get you running, he can get you returning punts, he can get you returning kickoffs and he can get you receiving."
Beeson has told anybody who'll listen the last few years that Janson, who was almost unstoppable in the open field against Nikiski while rushing for 206 yards, is a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
Knowing this, and entering the game without their top running back and starting quarterback, the Nikiski coaching staff decided to try and shorten the game by running the ball and sucking every last second out of the play clock.
The ploy worked for over a quarter. In the first quarter, the Bulldogs held the ball for 9:18, while Kenai had the ball for just 2:40 and was able to get Janson just four of the 27 rushing attempts he would finish with on the evening.
"Our guys bought into what we were doing, and that was encouraging," said Nikiski coach Lee Moore. "When we were able to keep that speed contained, we were OK.
"When that speed got out in the open, it was tough to handle. Cory Janson is a whale of a football player."
In the second quarter, Janson's explosiveness left Nikiski's game plan in tatters. With 8:00 left until half, Janson got around the left end and thrashed through Nikiski's secondary for a 76-yard score.
"Once we got rolling, we just wanted to keep piling it on," said Kenai senior guard James Haddock. "We expected Cory to do something sooner or later."
Then with 3:12 left until half, Janson fielded a bounding punt and appeared to be hemmed in by an approaching pack of Nikiski defenders. Janson somehow made it to the outside and wove down the sideline until finally getting forced out of bounds at the Nikiski 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Dakota Craig scored on a 6-yard run up the middle.
Then, with less than two minutes left until half, Janson provided the backbreaker.
Down 14-0, Nikiski was still sticking with its strategy. The Bulldogs were still in striking distance and could still grind out a couple of scores using their ball-control, clock-eating strategy.
Nikiski's Kevin Gerke eludes Kenai's Casey Crowder (56) and Dakota Craig in the second quarter Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski was mounting a drive late before the half when Travis McCaughey found himself some open space and was streaking past midfield. However, a Kenai defender tipped the ball away from McCaughey and directly into the hands of Janson.
Fifty-five yards later, Janson had another touchdown and Kenai had complete control of the game with a 22-0 lead with 1:32 left in the first half.
"The ball just fell right into my hands," Janson said. "It was the type of play that happens once in a blue moon."
In the second half, the Kenai defense gave the Bulldogs no hope for victory as Nikiski failed to score for the fourth straight week. The Bulldogs ended up with 135 yards of total offense.
"We had a shutout as a goal," said Kenai senior guard and defensive tackle Casey Crowder. "The coaches did a good job of putting us in the right place for this game."
Despite a 1-4 record and the scoring drought, Nikiski still has high hopes for the season. The four losses have all been nonconference, and Nikiski is 1-0 in the Great Land Conference.
"Our coaches told us our season starts Monday," Nikiski senior tight end and defensive lineman Corey Grimm said. "All these games have been practice games."
KARDINALS 35, BULLDOGS 0
Kenai 0 22 13 0 --35
Nikiski 0 0 0 0 --0
Ken -- Janson 76 run (Reynolds kick), 8:00
Ken -- Craig 6 run (Reynolds kick), 2:32
Ken -- Janson 55 fumble return (Janson run), 1:32
Ken -- Janson 2 run (kick failed), 7:17
Ken -- Janson 5 run (Reynolds kick), 3:34
First downs 12 7
Rushes-yards 55-326 39-123
Passing yards 0 12
Return yards 101 0
Passing 0-6-0 2-8-0
Punts-avg 2-20.5 5-26.2
Fumbles-lost 2-0 3-3
Penalties-yards 8-75 6-42
Rushing -- Kenai: Craig 11-64, Janson 27-206, Tunseth 4-9, Reynolds 5-(-3), Reemtsma 6-40, Nicholas 2-10. Nikiski: Carlson 9-27, Anderson 27-78, Travis McCaughey, 3-18.
Passing -- Kenai: Tunseth 0-6-0-0. Nikiski: Gerke 0-1-0-0, Womack 2-7-0-12.
Receiving -- Nikiski: Gerke 1-6, Oliva 1-6.
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