Kodiak head coach Bill McGuire got the victory, and not the weather, for which he was looking Saturday afternoon in the season opener at a drenched Nikiski High School.
The Bears gave McGuire a 25-15 nonconference victory in his first game as Kodiak’s head man by scoring 13 points in the final, electrifying 35 seconds. Kodiak’s torrent of points came after Nikiski executed a 16-play, 61-yard drive through cascading rain that flooded the track surrounding the field to take a 15-12 advantage with just 1:19 left.
Kodiak has notoriously rainy weather, and it was the Bears’ ability to execute through unrelenting showers that provided the difference. Kodiak had no turnovers, dropping just one fumble. The Bulldogs had five turnovers — with three interceptions and two of five fumbles ending up in the arms of Kodiak.
The Bulldogs had 305 yards of total offense to Kodiak’s 207.
“I was hoping to get some nice weather when we came over to the mainland,” McGuire said. “This was worse rain than we’ve had there all summer. It’s actually been a nice summer.”
Despite the loss, Nikiski coach Ted Riddall was upbeat. He pointed out the small-schools Bulldogs have just 220 students in school, while the medium-schools Bears have over 800.
“I told them this was not a loss — we went toe to toe with them,” Riddall said. “This is a perfect game to build on. There were a lot of good things that happened, but there were a lot of things that we can point out on film and fix, as well.”
One of the most solid building blocks was the go-ahead drive that culminated in a 2-yard plunge by Rykker Riddall to take the short-lived lead with 1:19 to play.
“Anytime you can sustain a drive with the game on the line, that’s a good thing,” coach Riddall said. “It’s also important to play just as hard on defense as you just did on offense during that drive.”
Kodiak got the ball at midfield with 1:12 to play, and on the first play quarterback Andreas Carros dropped back to pass, felt pressure, and wove his way through countless defenders to inside the 10-yard line. A block in the back by Kodiak but the ball back at the Nikiski 34.
On the next play, Carros threw up a wobbler that looked to slip from his hand as he threw it. Fortunately for the Bears, the ball retained that no-grip quality as it squeezed through the arms of a Nikiski defender for a dropped interception.
On the next play, Carros was hit as he threw, leading to another wobbler. But the pass hit receiver Giovanni Martinez in stride racing across the field, and he strode into the corner of the end zone for a 19-15 lead with 35 seconds left to play.
“I got kind of lucky there,” Carros said. “The ball kind of slipped from my hand and I was down on the ground when it was in the air. I didn’t think anything was going to happen with it.”
But McGuire said the winning drive was more about the work Carros put in this summer than luck. The QB finished 6 of 23 for 102 yards.
“Big-time players make big-time plays,” McGuire said.
Nikiski got the ball back at its own 22 with 27 seconds to play. Two passes to Hunter Holloway moved the ball to the 50-yard line with 14 seconds left. After a wide-receiver pass play was wiped out by offsetting penalties, Nikiski attempted to run a screen to the wide receiver in the middle of the field.
But Kordell Pillans, all 6-foot-6, 305 pounds of him, stayed home and snatched the ball from the air. He then showed remarkable speed and agility for a big man, shedding Nikiski quarterback Cade Anderson en route to hitting pay dirt and getting mobbed by his jubilant teammates as the clock struck :00.
“That was the first touchdown I’ve ever scored,” Pillans said. “What a way to do it.”
Kodiak had taken a 6-0 lead after one quarter on another strike from Carros to Martinez, this one for 25 yards. But after that Nikiski’s defense increasingly slowed Kodiak’s spread offense, with the Bears getting just two first downs in the second half.
“Our defense came through for us,” McGuire said. “We were having trouble moving the ball. Nikiski’s a good team.”
The Bulldogs took the lead with 6:20 left in the second quarter on a 10-yard scamper by Corin Cooper.
In the third quarter, Brandon Jimenez, who led all rushers with 21 carries for 105 yards, intercepted an Anderson pass and returned it 64 yards to the Nikiski 11. Four plays later, Jimenez punched the ball in himself from 2 yards out for a 12-7 advantage with 2:44 on the clock.
Anderson had 106 yards passing for Nikiski, while Cooper led the way with 66 rushing yards. Wesley Walker had an interception and fumble recovery for the Bears, while Braxton Bolen also recovered a fumble.
Bears 25, Bulldogs 15
Kodiak 6 0 6 13 —25
Nikiski 0 7 0 8 —15
Kod — Martinez 25 pass from Carros (kick failed), 3:25.
Nik — Cooper 10 run (L. Broussard kick), 6:20.
Kod — Jimenez 2 run (pass failed), 2:44.
Nik — Riddall 2 run (Riddall from Anderson), 1:19.
Kod — Martinez 34 pass from Carros (Recinos-Pineda kick), 0:35.
Kod — Pillans 50 interception return, 0:00.
First downs 9 16
Rushes-yards 35-147 45-199
Passing yards 102 106
Comp-att-int 6-23-0 7-16-3
Return yards 114 38
Punts 6-29.0 2-33.5
Fumbles 1-0 5-2
Penalties 2-15 4-34
Rushing — Kodiak: Carros 12-36, Galindez 1-0, Jimenez 21-105, Sega 1-6. Nikiski: Carstens 7-38, Cooper 15-66, D. Broussard 9-34, Riddall 11-54, L. Johnson 1-0, Anderson 2-(-3).
Passing — Kodiak: Carros 6-23-0—102. Nikiski: Anderson 7-16-3—106.
Receiving — Kodiak: Galindez 1-7, Martinez 3-71, Walton 2-24. Nikiski: Carstens 2-40, Holloway 4-45, Broussard 1-21.