Tasked with trying to slow an unstoppable force, the Nikiski Bulldogs found out Friday night why the Houston Hawks are undefeated an aiming for another postseason berth.
Houston thrashed Nikiski 47-0 to strengthen its spot at the top of the Peninsula Conference standings, and also etched a new school record into its program history with its sixth straight win. Houston improved to 6-0 overall this year (3-0 in conference), while Nikiski dropped to 1-4 overall (1-1 conference).
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they take the conference again,” said Nikiski coach Paul Nelson. “I think they look better this year than last year.
“We would’ve had to play our absolute best game to have a chance and we didn’t do that.”
The Nikiski senior class also knows how dangerous Houston currently is, and receiver Michael Eiter didn’t mince words about the Hawks going far.
“To be honest, I hope Houston wins state,” Eiter said. “They deserve it. Their seniors deserve it. They’re playing their butts off every game.”
Sometimes, it also takes a bit of extra motivation. After winning the conference last year with a 7-1 regular season mark, the Hawks lost their playoff opener.
This year, Houston head coach Glenn Nelson said the team’s Sept. 6 game with Homer, a 20-8 victory that wasn’t settled until the fourth quarter, helped kick the Hawks into a higher gear.
“We wanted to come out here and set a tone early,” Nelson said. “I think we did that.”
The Hawks dominated the line of scrimmage all day. Nikiski fumbled the ball away four times in the first half while punting or giving it up on downs on four other occasions.
Houston scored on its first six possessions, helping build a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and a 47-0 lead by halftime, and outgained Nikiski in yardage 328 to 98 in the first half.
“They’re big, fast, strong, physical guys, they played a clean game, and it showed on the scoreboard,” Paul Nelson said. “We couldn’t move it against them on offense, and they did what they wanted when they were on offense.”
The Bulldogs’ offensive woes continued a recent trend — Nikiski has nine points over the last three games, including two shutouts. Friday at home, Nikiski had seven snaps total in Houston’s half of the field. Most of that came on the opening drive when Micheal Mysing ripped off a 37-yard scramble to set up the Bulldogs at the Houston 32-yard line. Nikiski ended up turning the ball over on downs.
The very next play — Houston’s first offensive snap of the game — resulted in a 70-yard touchdown burst by Owen Mulhaney, putting the Hawks ahead. Mulhaney finished the day with a team-high 103 yards and two TD runs.
“They were more physical than us the entire game,” Eiter said. “They started picking up on some of our plays, started calling them out, knew exactly what we were doing.”
The biggest Nikiski first-half highlight came courtesy of junior Caileb Payne, who picked off Houston QB Gavin Mulhaney while Houston was deep in the red zone for a Bulldogs interception.
However, Nikiski still had trouble moving from the deep end of their field, as a sack by Houston defensive end Kennedy Fono pushed the Bulldogs back, and a fumble that Fono recovered set the Hawks up for another touchdown.
Mysing, a speed runner who has the ability to turn on a dime, said making it through the wall of defenders was the biggest challenge. After his long run in the first quarter, Mysing was contained the rest of the way with his longest carry of 10 yards in the second half. Mysing finished the day with a team-high 81 rush yards.
“They’re ready to key on me, they’re looking for it and expecting it,” Mysing said. “They’re hitting me hard, and it’s hard to get by that.”
Glenn Nelson said Houston tried to mix its passing and ground games in the first half, leading to the offensive success. Houston senior quarterback Gavin Mulhaney also kept Nikiski off balance with a deadly passing game, hitting 5 of 6 targets for two TD’s and 116 yards. His favorite receiver, junior Tolupo Falaniko, caught three balls for 85 yards and both TD’s.
“He’s done really well throwing the ball the last two games,” Nelson said.
Nikiski signal-caller Noah Litke ended the day 4 for 7 with 21 pass yards, targeting Eiter the most with three catches for 13 yards.
The Bulldogs travel to Homer next Saturday for a crucial Peninsula Conference clash. Homer beat Nikiski 50-18 earlier this year in a nonconference meeting, and both teams head into next weekend’s game with playoff hopes on the line.
Hawks 47, Bulldogs 0
Houston 28 19 0 0 —47
Nikiski 0 0 0 0 —0
Hou — O. Mulhaney 70 run (Whitted kick), 9:05
Hou — Falaniko 26 pass from G. Mulhaney (Whitted kick), 6:23
Hou — Fono 2 run (Whitted kick), 4:35
Hou — Falaniko 45 pass from G. Mulhaney (Whitted kick), :25
Hou — Croghan 12 run (pass no good), 8:29
Hou — O. Mulhaney 8 run (kick failed), 5:54
Hou — O. Mulhaney 10 run (Whitted kick), 1:39
1st downs 11 9
Rush yds 273 89
Pass yds 116 29
Comp-att-int 5-6-1 5-9-0
Return yds 34 80
Punts 2-29.0 5-23.2
Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-4
Penalties 10-70 6-41
Rushing — Nikiski: Mysing 19-81, Berry 12-18, Eiter 1-6, Litke 2-(-16). Houston: O. Mulhaney 4-103, Croghan 4-51, Fono 5-36, G. Mulhaney 2-12, Falaniko 1-10, #36 10-38, Bolduc 8-16, McLaughlin 1-(-6), Long 3-13.
Passing — Nikiski: Litke 4-7-0—21, Bostic 1-2-0—8. Houston: G. Mulhaney 5-6-1—116.