A week after suffering a tough loss to Eielson at home, the Nikiski football team regrouped and beat Valdez in a 50-0 rout Saturday afternoon at Nikiski High School.
The Bulldogs improved to 2-1 in the Greatland Conference (3-1 overall), while Valdez dropped to 1-2 in the conference (1-4 overall).
For Nikiski, it was a needed refresher course after Eielson totaled 577 offensive yards against them last Saturday. Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said his team passed.
“It was the way the offense was blocking, because we weren’t blocking that well last week,” Riddall said. “We changed some things around with our blocking schemes, and they worked really hard putting it into play. Looked pretty good from start to finish.”
Led by the 246 rushing yards and five touchdowns of senior Christian Riddall, Nikiski amassed a total of 578 offensive yards while holding Valdez to 152 yards, including a negative total of 22 rushing yards.
“We went to work,” the younger Riddall said. “We’re looking forward to Eielson again, so right now we’re starting with baby steps and moving on up each game, no matter who the opponent is.”
The scoring started early for Nikiski, even while the Buccaneers held possession. On the third play of the game, Valdez quarterback Colbin Hansen stepped back to throw but was sacked. Hansen managed to toss the ball in the air while going down, but Nikiski linebacker Luke Johnson intercepted it and ran it back 30 yards to score.
Hansen ended the day with five picks — all in the first half — and Johnson accounted for three of them himself.
“Going up, reading the ball and getting it at the highest point is important,” coach Riddall said. “Anytime you can get a pick, it’s pretty important for that skill developing later on.”
Valdez coach Lea Cockerham said Hansen was chosen to step up and replace Preston Fifarek, Valdez’s starting quarterback, who was concussed in the previous week’s loss to Homer.
“We’re a passing team, so when we lost our quarterback, that really hurts,” Cockerham said. “He’ll probably be fine next week, but we didn’t want to take a chance. So, we struggled passing the ball today.”
Hansen ended the game completing 8 of 19 attempts and 174 passing yards.
“With our quarterback out, we still had receivers and tight ends,” Cockerham said. “Mickey (Radotich) did a great job, we could put him as a slot receiver, and Dawson (Bauman) did great too.”
Radotich had 80 receiving yards while Bauman ended with 94.
On the Nikiski offense, quarterback Cade Anderson went 9 for 12 with 155 passing yards and a touchdown. Hunter Holloway caught five of those passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Valdez did not have much success moving the ball against the fearsome Nikiski defense, but the few big plays the Bucs did produce were spoiled by untimely mistakes. Valdez got within 10 yards of scoring on two separate occasions, but both were ruined by a Nikiski interception.
Late in the first quarter, Hansen found Radotich open along the left sideline for a 43-yard pass, placing Valdez on the Nikiski 5-yard line. However, the Bucs lost the chance for any points two plays later when Hansen was picked off by Johnson for a second time, just four yards from the end zone.
On the ensuing Nikiski possession, it took four plays for Riddall to blast through the Valdez secondary on the first play of the second quarter and score on a 75-yard rumble.
“You’re never as good as you seem, and it’s never as bad as it looks,” Riddall said philosophically. “We did pretty well on everything that we were practicing. Just getting ready for the big games coming up.”
Later in the first half, the Bucs went 70 yards on two passing plays to set themselves up on Nikiski’s 10-yard line, but Luke Johnson once again ruined a scoring opportunity with his third pick of the game.
“We didn’t have an answer to their offense obviously, but it’s frustrating because you just wanna get on the board and make something positive,” Cockerham said. “I told them at halftime, just don’t fold the tent. Go out there, get out of the huddle, look sharp, and make something positive out of it.”
Valdez had four first downs in the entire game.
In the second half, Nikiski began attempting field goals, but missed all but one, missing tries of 34, 28, 36, 25 and 35 yards, before Luck Broussard converted on a 25-yarder with just over five minutes left in the game.
“There’s a couple kids not too far away from being a part of the varsity lineup,” Riddall said of his JV players being put into action in the second half, adding that Ian Johnson and Kyle Rosado were among the second-string players that looked good.
Nikiski hosts Voznesenka next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Bulldogs 50, Buccaneers 0
Nikiski 26 14 7 3 —50
Valdez 0 0 0 0 —0
Nik — Johnson 30 interception return (kick failed), 10:25
Nik — Riddall 13 run (Jackson kick), 9:15
Nik — Riddall 1 run (Jackson kick), 5:33
Nik — Riddall 21 run (kick failed), 3:34
Nik — Riddall 75 run (Jackson kick), 11:48
Nik — Holloway 32 pass from Anderson, 10:52
Nik — Riddall 6 run (L. Broussard kick), :14
Nik — L. Broussard 25 FG, 5:04
Rushes-yards 26-423 28-(-22)
Passing yards 155 174
Comp-att-int 9-12-0 8-19-5
Return yards 85 2
Punts 0 6
Fumbles 0 0
Penalties-yards 5-30 5-25
Rushing — Nikiski: C. Riddall 12-246, Castro 5-83, D. Broussard 4-58, Cooper 2-16, R. Riddall 2-14, Anderson 1-6. Valdez: Hansen 12-(-21), Howard 9-(-2), Coats 2-3, #41 2-(-6), Sodergren 1-0, Porritt 2-4.
Passing — Nikiski: Anderson 9-12-0—155. Valdez: Hansen 8-19-5—174.
Receiving — Nikiski: Holloway 5-89, D. Broussard 2-33, Carstens 2-33. Valdez: Bauman 4-94, Radotich 3-80.