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Week 3: Seward, Valdez to play 9-man football

There will be nine-man football in Seward on Saturday at 1 p.m. when the Seahawks play a nonconference game against Valdez.

“There’s been a push for nine-man to happen in the state,” Seward coach Tyler Mallory said. “Nobody is sure they wanted to do it — I’m not sure if I want to do it — but Valdez asked and I agreed to give it a try.”

By playing nine-man, the Seahawks and Buccaneers also will be able to have a junior varsity scrimmage before the varsity contest. With eight freshmen in his program, Mallory said the scrimmage will mean valuable experience.

Mallory said he isn’t making a bunch of strategic changes for the first nine-man contest he’ll take part in as a player or coach. He said he’ll just get rid of the two tackles on offense and put the fullback on the line. The playing dimensions of the field don’t change from 11-man football.

“It’ll create more space for our athletes and I’m excited about that,” Mallory said.

Seward is 0-1 in the Denali Conference and 0-1 overall, with a Week 2 contest at Eielson canceled due to COVID-19 issues on Seward’s team. Mallory said Seward is ready to go with 19 to 20 players dressed this week.

Mallory said Seward has been working on ball security and tackling after four turnovers in Week 1.

The coach also is looking forward to seeing senior returning starter Elmo Lackey III on the field again. Lackey III, a middle linebacker and receiver, now has enough practices to play.

Soldotna at Chugiak, 6 p.m. Friday

After a Week 1 cancellation and a Week 2 nonconference loss to Lathrop, the Stars open up Northern Lights Conference play.

The Stars sustained some injuries against the Malemutes. Coach Galen Brantley Jr. said the injuries will continue to be a factor Friday.

“We’re definitely going to have some new faces,” the coach said. “Some kids will be getting their first opportunity at playing ball this weekend. That’s not necessarily a negative thing when you’re trying to build depth with your roster.”

Brantley Jr. said Chugiak, which has a loss to North Pole and narrow victory over Homer, is in a rebuilding phase.

With just five teams in the NLC, there is no time to relax as the Stars chase a 15th straight conference crown.

“Every win is important with only two teams getting in (to the playoffs),” Brantley Jr. said. “We know down the road we have a really talented Eagle River team we have to play.

“We can’t afford any mistakes or slip-ups along the way.”

Brantley Jr. is happy with the way his team responded to the loss in practice.

Senior middle linebacker Brock Wilson stood out for the Stars against Lathrop, finishing as the defensive points leader. On offense, Dylan Dahlgren stood out as a blocker, finishing with the most knockdowns on the team.

Houston at Nikiski, 6 p.m. Friday

The Bulldogs and Hawks meet in a Division III nonconference matchup after meeting in the brief and eventually canceled 2020 playoffs. The Hawks, the 2019 Division III state champs, topped Nikiski 36-6 in that game.

“They look big like they tend to always do,” Nikiski coach Paul Nelson said. “I’m really not sure where they always get those big boys up front from.

“They play a good brand of physical, tough, in-your-face football.”

Houston has taken losses to Wasilla and Eagle River.

Nikiski is 1-1 in the Denali Conference and 1-1 overall after a Week 1 victory over Eielson and Week 2 loss to Monroe Catholic. Nelson said slow starts were a problem in both of those games.

“This week, we’re focusing on being ready right now,” the coach said. “As soon as the ball is kicked off, we want to be ready to play good Nikiski football.”

The Bulldogs have had more than a week to prepare after playing Monroe on Aug. 17. Nelson said Nikiski has worked on adding a few wrinkles to the offense and tackling on defense.

The coach said all the time off also has allowed some twisted ankles to get mostly healed.

Kodiak at Homer, noon Saturday

The Mariners, a Division III team, will face a Division II squad for the third straight week.

After losing 57-0 to Eagle River in Week 1, coach Justin Zank was much happier with his team’s play in a Week 2 loss to Chugiak. Zank said playing all of the Division II talent is helping his squad get ready for Mid Alaska Conference play.

Kodiak also is 0-2 after losing to Barrow 57-0 in Week 1 and losing to Wasilla 34-6 in Week 2.

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