Nikiski routs Seward to gain 4th straight title game

The way the Nikiski Bulldogs celebrated their 48-0 state semifinal victory Friday night over Seward, you’d think they had just earned their first small-schools championship berth.

Actually, the win put Nikiski into the championship game for a fourth consecutive year, which is also reason enough to dance off the field as rowdily as they did.

The win sets up a highly anticipated matchup with Eielson in next Saturday’s state championship game at Alumni Field at Dimond High in Anchorage. Eielson defeated Barrow 41-6 in the second small-schools semifinal Saturday.

“It’s a big deal and it’s starting to become a tradition here, so hopefully we can keep it up for the next few years,” said Nikiski quarterback Cade Anderson about getting to the state final.

For a team that is known primarily for its brutal running game, Nikiski used a lethal passing attack Friday to shred the Seward secondary. Anderson threw four touchdown passes, and completed 8 of 11 passing attempts for 198 yards.

“We have a great running game, and if we have a great running game, we can pass off of it,” Anderson said. “A lot of it is trust. We have a lot of trust in our receivers.”

Anderson tossed scoring passes on Nikiski’s first two possessions — a 22-yarder to Hunter Holloway two and a half minutes in and a 16-yarder to Christian Riddall just over four minutes later.

“If you miss a catch in practice, you go until you catch 20 balls after that,” said wideout Dylan Broussard.

Broussard and Anderson, both juniors, connected three times for 79 yards. Broussard ended the evening with 94 total offensive yards with both a rushing and receiving touchdown.

“We’ve probably thrown a thousand times together, and after you do that, it works out every time,” Broussard said.

Nikiski coach Ted Riddall — fresh off a football hall of fame induction at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington — said Anderson is closing in on the school record. Riddall said former quarterback Josh Riley holds the Bulldogs single-season passing record of 1,340 yards. Anderson is currently at 1,267 yards.

“He’s always had the arm and the ability to do it, it’s just been our offense not having to use it,” Riddall said. “We run, that’s kind of what our offense is designed to do, but if he can pass, it makes it difficult for a defense to sit on everything.”

With that dual threat, the Seahawks had a tough time containing the Bulldogs on Friday.

After Nikiski’s opening touchdown, Seward moved the ball 23 yards but turned it over on downs at the Nikiski 41-yard line. From there, it took Nikiski three plays to find the end zone for a second time, getting a 31-yard romp from Riddall and a 16-yard pass from Anderson to Riddall to put the Bulldogs up 14 points.

Seward was forced to punt on its ensuing possession. Nikiski answered that with a booming 51-yard touchdown run from Riddall. At the end of the day, Riddall racked up 208 yards on only seven carries with two rushing touchdowns and a third through the air.

After Riddall scored his third touchdown on a 25-yard run late in the first quarter, Nikiski held a 28-0 lead.

“It’s consistency,” coach Riddall said. “The way the kids play for us and the way the coaches coach, it’s huge on any level of football.”

Still, Seward managed to move the ball better than the previous week, getting several big plays from lightning-quick receiver Terrance Annogiyuk and tailback Preston Atwood. After being pushed back to negative-36 yards a week ago, the Seahawks had 77 rushing yards Friday. Annogiyuk had 86 total offensive yards himself.

Seward’s best drive of the day bridged the first and second quarters, when the Seahawks went 12 plays and 36 yards to get down to the Nikiski 16-yard line, although an illegal formation penalty erased a significant chunk of yards.

However, Seward quarterback Alex Pahno was sacked on fourth down by Nikiski’s Ian Johnson to negate all the work. During the possession, Seward twice converted on fourth down. The Seahawks moved the chains four times on fourth-down plays during the game.

Anderson got Nikiski’s ensuing possession off to a hot start with a 42-yard bomb to Broussard, and two plays later, connected with Broussard again on a 2-yard fade route to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 34-0.

On the fourth play of Seward’s next possession, Pahno chucked the ball toward the end zone on third down, but instead found Nikiski’s Nico Castro near the pylon. The mistake resulted in a Nikiski touchdown when Riddall dashed 59 yards to the Seward 15, then Broussard took the handoff from Anderson on a misdirection play that mirrored the style of the Soldotna Stars.

Broussard later added a spectacular 41-yard touchdown catch that saw him come down with the ball over the Seward defender and run it in from 10 yards out to score.

Looking ahead to the state title game, coach Riddall mentioned that in the previous three years, Nikiski’s championship result was the opposite of the regular-season matchup with their opposition.

Last year, Monroe Catholic beat Nikiski in the regular season but lost in the title game.

This year, Eielson beat Nikiski 52-34 in the two schools’ regular-season matchup, which also saw senior running back Anthony Griffith set the single-game state rushing record of 516 yards.

“If it stays status quo, that means we’ve got a good shot,” Riddall said. “It kind of wakes us up, and that’s good because the kids have invested more, and since that loss, it’s showing up.”

Friday

Bulldogs 48, Seahawks 0

Nikiski282000С48

Seward0000С0

1st Quarter

Nik С Holloway 22 pass from Anderson (Schwenke kick), 9:28

Nik С Riddall 16 pass from Anderson (Schwenke kick), 5:17

Nik С Riddall 51 run (Schwenke kick), 4:32

Nik С Riddall 25 run (Schwenke kick), 1:20

2nd Quarter

Nik С Broussard 2 pass from Anderson (kick failed), 7:14

Nik С Broussard 15 run (Schwenke kick), 3:35

Nik С Holloway 41 pass from Anderson (Schwenke kick), 1:14

 

NikSew

First downs2621    

Rushes-yds23-33444-77

Passing yds20499

Comp-att-int9-12-06-22-1

Return yds1087

Penalties-yds4-356-65

Punts-yds1-303-86

 

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing С Nikiski: C. Riddall 7-208, Castro 3-37, Cooper 2-8, Broussard 1-15, Perry 4-22, R. Riddall 2-16, I. Johnson 1-4, Cutsforth 3-24. Seward: Annogiyuk 13-59, Miranda 10-21, Martin 7-9, Atwood 7-9, A. Pahno 7-(-21).

Passing С Nikiski: Anderson 8-11-0С198, I. Johnson 1-1-0С6. Seward: A. Pahno 6-22-1С99.

Receiving С Nikiski: Holloway 3-89, Broussard 3-79, C. Riddall 1-20, Carstens 1-10. Seward: Annogiyuk 1-27, Atwood 1-23, Martin 1-21, N. Pahno 3-28.

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