Tobias Dobashi-Noa joined the Eielson High School football team late last season, but he got to experience a small-schools state championship victory.
On Saturday afternoon, the Ravens senior running back helped assure Eielson of another opportunity to capture a state title.
Dobashi-Noa rushed nine times for a career-high 207 yards and scored four touchdowns to aid Eielson’s 70-18 win over the Nikiski Bulldogs in a small-schools state semifinal at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base.
“It means a lot,’’ Dobashi-Noa, one of four Ravens with 100-yard plus performances Saturday, said of Eielson returning to the small-schools final.
Senior running back Antonio Griffith scored three times while rushing 10 times for 150 yards for Eielson, which plays for the state title against the Houston Hawks at 4 p.m. this coming Saturday at Palmer High School. Houston, the Aurora runner-up in the regular season, advanced to the state final after downing the host Seward Seahawks 44-6 in Saturday’s other small schools semifinal.
The state final in Palmer will be an all-Aurora Conference showdown as Eielson won the Aurora Conference regular-season title. One of the Ravens’ wins on the way to a 4-0 conference mark was a 27-21 decision at Houston in September.
Eielson hopes to add to the state titles it captured in 2012, 2014 and 2015. All of those finals were against Nikiski.
For many Ravens, the 2016 state championship contest will be a new experience. Head coach David DeVaughn is just as excited about the preparation as he is for the title contest against Houston, whom the Ravens defeated in the regular season.
“Being down with these guys and the young guys getting to experience for the first time,’’ said DeVaughn, “and getting to watch their reactions, and getting to watch these older guys over the week take those guys under their wings and tell them what it’s going to be like.
“It’s going to feel different because it’s the state championship game, but you can’t let that get to you,’’ he continued. “We’ve got to let the young girls know that the prep is the same and every game is one step closer to our goal. And our goal is right in front of us now.”
An early, eye-opening setback was in front of the Ravens during the first quarter Saturday.
Nikiski went for first down when it had fourth down and 17 yards to go from its 47-yard line. Bulldogs junior quarterback Ian Johnson connected with Patrick Perry on a 53-yard pass play for a 6-0 lead with 9:25 left in the first quarter.
Eielson’s defense solidified after a post-touchdown talk by DeVaughn and defensive coordinator Don Fry that echoed off the walls of Eielson High School.
“We really just had to come together. We weren’t focused at the beginning, and we just had to pull together as a team,’’ said Scott Fry, a Ravens sophomore defensive tackle.
The Ravens offense responded to Nikiski’s touchdown with three straight touchdown runs by Dobashi-Noa in a span of a little more than 4 1/2 minutes in the first quarter.
Seventeen seconds after Perry’s touchdown catch, Dobashi-Noa sweeped to the left and bolted 59 yards down the sideline for Eielson’s first touchdown. He peeled off a 47-yard run with 6:20 and added a 21-yard dash with 4:33 left in the quarter.
“The offensive line executed 100 percent; we all executed as a team,’’ Dobashi-Noa said. “I just give 100-percent props to the o-line.”
Eielson ended the quarter with a 27-6 lead after Griffith streaked for a 37-yard TD with 1:25 left.
“Our first eight offensive plays were crisp and everyone was where they were supposed to be,’’ DeVaughn said. “It was nice to watch.”
Senior running back Matthew Minium, on the way to a team-high 71 yards on 15 carries, scored on a 34-yard to make it 27-12 with 11:18 left in the second. Eielson responded with junior quarterback Jeremiah Brown’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Griffith, and scoring runs of 29 yards by sophomore running back Jaydenn Manibusan and 33 by Dobashi-Noa to end the first half with a 48-12 lead.
“I thought we played tough, we never gave up,’’ said Bulldogs head coach Paul Nelson, “but that sweep killed us multiple times.
“It seemed like anytime they wanted to score, they did,’’ Nelson added. “It just dug us into too deep of a hole and we couldn’t stop them. I’m proud of our guys and we kept fighting the whole game, but it just didn’t go our way today.”
Brown added a 3-yard TD burst in the third quarter, where Griffith scored from 56 yards out and Manibusan provided a 37-yard TD scamper on the way to a 111-yard rushing afternoon on 12 carries.
Brown, who also threw a two-point conversion pass to Kevin Baird after Griffith’s touchdown in the third, was 4 for 5 for 118 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Matthew Scarboro accounted for most of Brown’s yards through the air with two catches for 70 yards.
Ravens junior Zach Paul converted eight point-after kicks.
Minium added a 1-yard touchdown plunge for Nikiski with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter.
Johnson passed for 200 yards on 9 of 20 attempts, and he was intercepted by Brown and Ravens defensive tackle Chris Kilpatrick.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.
Houston 44, Seward 6
The Seahawks saw their conference championship season come to an end Saturday afternoon with a loss to the Houston Hawks.
Houston, the No. 2 seed out of the Aurora Conference, nailed down its first ever football championship appearance and will meet two-time defending state champions Eielson.
A week after defeating Nikiski 22-8 for rights to the Peninsula Conference championship, Seward saw its dream at the small-schools title go up in smoke. The Seahawks got their only points on a scoring pass from Nik Pahno to Rhett Sieverts.