Though the opponent is to be determined, Nikiski ensured itself a first-round home playoff game with a 47-7 win over visiting Greatland Conference rival Barrow on Saturday. The Bulldogs remain unbeaten in league play and improve to 5-2 overall. The Whalers fall to 3-2 and 4-3. Nikiski will host Eielson next Saturday at noon with a conference championship on the line.
Just as the Bulldogs did in Week 6, they came out on fire in the first quarter this week. Nikiski scored 26 points in the game's first 10 minutes.
"We challenge them right away to hit the ground running," Bulldogs head coach Ted Riddall said. "We wanted to start fast. We knew they had good-sized kids and we hoped that our conditioning would pay off, and it did later on."
Turnovers on Barrow's first play from scrimmage on two consecutive drives led to 20 Nikiski points in a 2:12 span.
"We just took it to them in the first half," Bulldogs running back Kaden Spurgeon said. "We just wanted to perform all 48 minutes."
"We always plan on scoring every possession," Nikiski quarterback Colton Anderson said. "If we do that, we only need to stop them once to win."
Nikiski dominated the first half of play.
Anderson was 13-of-16 for 186 yards and threw for three touchdowns in the first half.
Anderson had an outstanding game, Riddall said. Anderson showed great composure, he said.
Spurgeon's superb running complemented Anderson's passing attack. He ran for 95 yards and two scores through two quarters. Spurgeon finished the game with 122 yards to lead the Bulldogs. Julien Harris collected 76 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opening 24 minutes.
Nikiski's depth in the backfield with Spurgeon, Harris, Stefan Krogseng and Stephen Hartley make it hard to defend, Riddall said.
"Teams can't just sit on Kaden anymore," he said.
Barrow's first half was nothing like Nikiski's.
The Whalers fumbled six times, losing three of those, gained only 68 yards of total offense and were shut out. Barrow managed only three first downs in the first half to Nikiski's 16.
Nikiski's line was able to sustain blocks well, Spurgeon said, leading to success on offense.
"The running game helped open up the passing game," said Anderson, who finished just shy of 200 yards passing for the game. Nikiski wanted to establish its ground game early on, he said.
Anderson credited Nikiski's success on defense with the coaches' ability to secure game film. The team was able to break down the Whalers' offense and prepared for them all week, he said.
"We always knew what was coming," Anderson said.
Next week Nikiski will look to win its first outright conference title since 2001. The Bulldogs shared the title in 2006 and 2008.
The conference championship will be won at the line of scrimmage, Anderson said. Like Nikiski, the Ravens are small and quick, he said.
"Eielson is always tough," Anderson said. "It's gonna be a battle."
Win or lose, the Bulldogs will still have home field advantage for Week 9.
Having their fans cheering on the team will be a huge boost to start the postseason, Spurgeon said.
"The team that's gonna come here will find they'll play a bunch of warriors," Anderson said.
Bulldogs 47, Whalers 7
Barrow 0 0 7 0 -- 7
Nikiski 26 14 0 7 -- 47
Nik -- Spurgeon 2 run (Taylor kick), 8:56
Nik -- Spurgeon 7 run (Taylor kick), 7:33
Nik -- Harris 33 run (conversion failed), 6:44
Nik -- Hartley 34 pass from Anderson (kick failed), 1:58
Nik -- Green 10 pass from Anderson (Taylor kick), 3:42
Nik -- Harris 9 pass from Anderson (Taylor kick), 0:18
Bar -- Hudson 10 pass from Benson (Benson kick), 6:03
Nik -- Armstrong 37 run (Taylor kick), 5:28
First downs 11 21
Rushes-yards 23-82 38-256
Comp-att-inter 14-26-1 15-19-0
Passing yards 135 197
Fumbles-lost 7-3 6-2
Penalties-yards 7-45 4-35
Punts-avg 3-30.7 0-0
Rushing -- Barrow: Unutoa 5-45, Snow 1-(-2), No. 29 6-31, Benson 8-(-10), No. 12 3-18; Nikiski: Spurgeon 20-122, Krogseng 3-13, Harris 3-52, Hartley 8-37, Anderson 3-(-5), Armstrong 1-37.
Passing -- Barrow: Benson 14-26-1-135; Nikiski: Anderson 15-19-0-197.
Receiving -- Barrow: Snow 4-34, Unutoa 1-13, No. 12 6-67, Hudson 2-21; Nikiski: Hartley 2-45, Krogseng 5-57, Green 3-48, Parrish 1-19, Spurgeon 1-(-4), Harris 2-24, Armstrong 1-8.
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