Clinching a spot in the playoffs. A homecoming victory. A win on senior day. Taking the first Fish Bowl trophy. The first home triumph of the season.
Nikiski had it all in its 42-12 Peninsula Conference victory over rival Seward on Friday night, except for the bonfire.
After the game, it was announced that there would be no homecoming big blaze due to rattling winds that had tore across the field the entire game. After the wildfire chocked summer the peninsula had this summer, let’s just say nobody was complaining.
Nobody from the Nikiski side was complaining about the game either.
The Bulldogs finished their regular season by clinching the No. 2 playoff spot out of the Peninsula Conference. The Bulldogs (3-1, 3-4) will play at Barrow in the Division III semifinals Saturday.
On homecoming, Nikiski also honored senior cheerleaders Aura Petrick and Jewelia Alex, plus senior football players Noah Litke, Caleb Weeks, Hamilton Cox, Michael Eiter, Mason Payne, Sam Berry and Michael Mysing.
To top it all off, Nikiski took the first Fish Bowl trophy ever awarded. The trophy will go to the winner of the Nikiski-Seward game each year.
The paperwork to Mysing’s senior day introduction was lost in the shuffle before the game, so fans didn’t get to hear all about him, but they learned soon enough. The senior had four rushing touchdowns, plus kicked all the extra points, as the Bulldogs took a 28-0 lead after the first half. Mysing finished with 111 yards on the ground.
“We had a pep rally right before the game,” Mysing said. “We were yelling at each other in the locker room. We were ready to play.”
Nikiski head coach Paul Nelson said he wanted his team to take a step forward heading into the playoffs. Nelson said his squad did that against a Seward team that, despite finishing with just 12 players and an 0-4 and 0-8 record, refused to roll over.
“We had to earn this one,” Nelson said.
Nikiski opened the game with a scoring drive, but the Bulldogs’ next two drives were thwarted by an interception by Chad Quinn and turning the ball over on downs. The score rested at 7-0 after a period.
Down 21-0, the Seahawks moved the ball to their own 45-yard line late in the second quarter, but Nikiski’s Caileb Payne picked off Seward quarterback Thommy Cronin. The backbreaker came two plays later, when Mysing wove his way through the defense for a 49-yard score with 17 seconds left in the half.
“I was just running the ball where they were blocking for me,” Mysing said. “Everything was because of my blockers.”
In the third quarter, Sam Berry, who rushed 13 times for 140 yards, had a score, then Eiter finished off the Seahawks with a 20-yard interception return. The Seahawks had five turnovers with Eiter, Caleb Weeks and Koleman McCaughey also getting fumble recoveries.
The Seahawks, who forced Nikiski into three turnovers, didn’t quit in the fourth quarter. Seniors Quinn and Shane Sullivan both had scoring runs, Sullivan’s a 2-yard scamper with 6 seconds left that just beat a running clock. Quinn had 112 yards on the ground, while Sullivan had 128.
“They fought like that all year,” Seward head coach Kelly Cinereski said of his team. “They don’t quit. They’ve been behind most of the year. They have good hearts. They’re just young.”
Senior Andrew Milligan also played in his last game for the Seahawks, but Cinereski is optimistic about the future. He brings 16 players back, though some of those were not there Friday due to injury and ineligibility.
Nelson said the game was special because this is the first group of seniors he’s had since they were freshmen.
“I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow up,” he said.
Bulldogs 42, Seahawks 12
Seward 0 0 0 12 — 12
Nikiski 7 21 14 0 — 42
Nik — Mysing 30 run (Mysing kick), 10:46.
Nik — Mysing 3 run (Mysing kick), 11:56.
Nik — Mysing 11 run (Mysing kick), 8:16.
Nik — Mysing 49 run (Mysing kick), 0:17.
Nik — Berry 8 run (Mysing kick), 6:25.
Nik — Eiter 20 interception return (Mysing kick), 6:04.
Sew — Quinn 5 run (run failed), 4:53.
Sew — Sullivan 2 run (time expired), 0:06.
First downs 10 10
Rushes-yards 46-258 38-308
Passing yards 44 11
Comp-att-int 3-9-2 1-3-1
Return yards 31 20
Punts 2-7.5 1-48
Fumbles-lost 3-3 3-2
Penalties 5-48 6-55
Rushing — Seward: Quinn 10-112, Cronin 7-(-11), Harshman 9-27, Sullivan 19-128, Sewell 1-2. Nikiski: Zoda 3-10, Berry 13-140, Mysing 7-111, C. Payne 1-0, M. Payne 3-6, Cox 1-6, Weeks 1-6, Eiter 1-1, Druesedow 3-20, Petty 3-8, Bostic 1-0, Litke 1-0.
Passing — Seward: Cronin 3-8-2—44, Sewell 0-1-0—0. Nikiski: Litke 1-3-1—11.
Receiving — Seward: Sullivan 1-31, Quinn 1-16, Harshman 1-(-3). Nikiski: Eiter 1-11.