Houston football coach Glenn Nelson said his squad has been a running team since the coach arrived in 2013.
Not Friday night in a 58-0 nonconference victory at Nikiski.
The Hawks piled up 249 passing yards in shutting out their Division III rival and moving to 1-2 overall. Nikiski falls to 1-2 overall.
“We’ve got a lot of basketball players out,” Nelson said. “We’ve got 6-foot receivers and a quarterback over 6-foot. The weather wasn’t raining.
“So we thought we’d try and air it out a little bit. It seemed to work for us early.”
Houston senior quarterback Colton Bunn, at 6-foot-4, 160 pounds, finished 8 of 15 for 222 yards and four touchdown passes. Bunn threw just one interception.
Wide receiver Eric Preboski, at 6-foot-3, 170, caught three passes — all for touchdowns — totaling 108 yards. Preboski also ran in a score and hit his brother, Ryan Preboski, on a 27-yard pass in a brief cameo at quarterback.
Braden Cork, at 6-4, 180, caught the other touchdown pass and had four catches for 73 yards.
“They kind of stabbed us in the heart a little bit, because we weren’t really expecting Houston to throw it around,” Nikiski coach Paul Nelson said. “That’s not what they’re known for, so we prepped for run.”
In a 36-6 playoff victory over Nikiski in 2020, Houston passed for 144 yards and ran 51 times for 309 yards. Friday, the Hawks ran 31 times for 222 yards, with Cody Wyrick, Keldin Nicoll and Brandon Hina adding scores on the ground.
Both of the coach Nelsons felt Nikiski’s defenders were in the right position to stop Houston’s passes. Both coaches also agreed that Houston went up and made much better plays on the ball.
Glenn Nelson said his team is reaping the benefits of playing bigger schools. Last year, the Hawks played then-Division I Wasilla twice, Division II Palmer twice and Division I Colony once. This season, Houston started with losses to Division II Eagle River and Wasilla.
“You saw a couple of the contested balls, our guys ended up with it,” Glenn Nelson said. “I think that’s because we play some of those larger teams.”
Paul Nelson said giving up big pass plays has become a trend for his squad.
“We’ve got to work harder in the defensive backfield, and we have to do better,” he said. “If I was a coach watching us for three games, I would throw all day. Why wouldn’t you?”
All the throwing Houston does not mean the Hawks have gone soft. The Nikiski program has the tradition of a strong ground game, but Houston held the Bulldogs to 37 yards on the ground under first-year defensive coordinator Dave Reilly.
“He had a goal of not letting people run or establish the run,” Glenn Nelson said of Reilly. “And he did that.”
Glenn Nelson said Kiderro Fono had a great game on the line and Eric Preboski also stood out.
“I could mention every guy on the team, because we had five running backs in there, four receivers, and nobody complained about not getting a carry,” he said.
Paul Nelson said middle linebacker Simon Grenier played his heart out and tried to rally his teammates.
The coach also said freshman James Hemphill was solid at running back and corner back, and Timmy Goodnight stood out on the line.
Hawks 58, Bulldogs 0
Houston 14 16 20 8 —58
Nikiski 0 0 0 0 —0
Hou — E. Preboski 57 pass from Bunn (Bunn run), 8:01.
Hou — Wyrick 2 run (pass failed), 2:14.
Hou — E. Preboski 20 pass from Bunn (Kolb run), 10:34.
Hou — Nicoll 46 run (Bunn run), 4:15.
Hou — E. Preboski 2 run (Wyrick run), 8:36.
Hou — Hina 14 run (run failed), 5:14.
Hou — E. Preboski 31 pass from Bunn (pass failed), 2:41.
Hou — Cork 21 pass from Bunn (Sasiu run), 8:34.
First downs 15 3
Rushes-yards 31-222 36-37
Passing yards 249 0
Comp-att-int 9-16-1 0-10-0
Punts 0-0 4-26.8
Return yards 8 0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-65 6-30
Rushing — Houston: Wyrick 8-23, Kolb 4-31, Hina 5-34, Hawes 2-19, Whitted 6-67, Nicoll 1-46, E. Preboski 2-11, Bunn 2-(-12), Sasiu 1-3. Nikiski: McCaughey 12-29, Hemphill 10-14, Grenier 11-19, Caddock 1-(-2), Bostic 2-(-23).
Passing — Houston: Bunn 8-15-1—122, E. Preboski 1-1-0—27. Nikiski: Bostic 0-9-0—0, Grenier 0-1-0—0.