The Nikiski Bulldogs football team secured a Division III playoff spot and took the top spot in the Denali Conference with a victory over the visiting Seward Seahawks on a Friday night packed with festivities.
The game was also their homecoming match, senior night and another shot at the Fish Bowl — a trophy that Nikiski continues to hold over Seward. The final score was 48-22.
Nikiski coach Matt Trammell said that he was relieved when the match was over.
“I’m actually excited to get another chance at Homer, excited to be conference champs, excited for our seniors,” he said.
Between homecoming, senior night, the Fish Bowl and the playoff implications, Trammell said the team barely knew what order they were going to do everything.
“Kind of discombobulated, but the kids locked in,” he said after his team improved to 2-0 in the league and 3-2 overall.
“It sucks to lose,” said Seward coach Tyler Mallory after his team finished 1-1 and 1-6. “It sucks to lose but that’s life sometimes, and that’s lessons we’ve got to learn and grow from.”
Mallory said his kids put in the work, and he’s proud of the effort he saw Friday.
The first quarter opened slowly, the ball changing hands a couple of times, before, 10 minutes in, Dwyght Mullins opened things up with a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion put the Bulldogs up 8-0.
Nikiski managed to immediately reclaim the ball with an onside kick, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to do anything with it until the second quarter, when Braeden Porter ran it into the end zone with nine minutes left in the half. Another conversion put the Bulldogs up 16-0.
Again, the Bulldogs managed to regain possession pretty quickly, with an interception by Ethan Ellis only a few minutes later.
A string of penalties against Nikiski — two for holding, one false start — pushed them back 25 yards without ever securing a first down, leading to Nikiski losing possession on downs.
The Seahawks managed to get on the board before the end of the half — Kupono Albino carried it in with only 40 seconds left. Noah Price brought in the two-point conversion, and the half ended 16-8.
Coming into the second half, Seward started with the ball, but were immediately held by the Bulldogs. A sack from Charlie Chamberlain put the Seahawks on fourth down, and drove them to punt.
Four minutes into the third quarter, Mullins ran nearly 70 yards for another touchdown. James Hemphill carried the conversion for a 24-8 game.
Seward lost the ball on downs again with five minutes left in the third.
Nikiski closed out the quarter with another touchdown by Porter, with only 11 seconds left. Hemphill, again, brought in the conversion. The score was 32-8.
Seward’s Brett Gilmore kicked off the fourth quarter with a touchdown, backed up by a conversion delivered by Albino, and bringing the score up to 32-16.
Mullins brought another big run with 7 minutes on the clock, scoring another touchdown. Oliver Parrish caught a pass to lock in a two-point conversion for a 40-16 game.
Nikiski’s Dustin Shoop reclaimed the ball on an interception only 10 seconds later, but a fumble quickly put the ball back in Seahawks hands, who then lost it on downs.
Parrish made the final Bulldogs touchdown of the night with two minutes on the clock. Sam Yerkes caught the pass for the conversion: 48-16.
With five seconds left in the game, Seward’s Price carried the ball into the end zone. No conversion, so the final score was 48-22
Trammell said Mullins left his heart on the field.
“I don’t have stats done, but I’d wager he rushed for over 200 again,” Trammell said.
Other strong performers for the Bulldogs included Porter, who Trammell said had been a leader all year, and Chamberlain, another senior — and animal — Trammell said. Drake Brankel finally got to wear his tight end jersey, and Ellis brought home his first varsity touchdown.
Seward’s Albino “ran like a monster,” Mallory said. “He ran people over, he ran hard.”
Mallory said Price was a strong performer on defense, and Gideon Schrock — who Mallory said moved to multiple new positions this week — also delivered defensively.
Next week, Nikiski will be playing their playoff game at home against the Homer Mariners, who defeated them by 10 points just last week.
“Defensively, I think we’re gonna change our approach. Because it didn’t work all that well,” Trammell said. “Offensively, we just got to do it. Do what we do, get some points, get some yards.”
Chugiak 21, Homer 20
The host Mustangs celebrated homecoming and senior night with a nonconference victory over the Mariners.