Week 5 football: Nikiski escapes in OT, SoHi buries Wolves

When it came down to crunch time, the Nikiski Bulldogs showed up when they needed to.

Nikiski pulled out a 14-8 overtime win over Seward in Peninsula Conference action Saturday afternoon in Seward, lifting their record to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in conference, while the Seahawks dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in conference.

Seward led 8-0 at halftime, but the Bulldogs broke through a shutout with a Sam Berry touchdown run with less than two minutes left in the game, and converted the all-important two-point play to tie the game at 8-all.

Seward got the ball back but Nikiski defensive back Noah Litke picked off Seahawks QB Tommy Cronin to give Nikiski a chance to win it, but the Bulldogs were denied by the Seward defense before regulation ended.

In overtime, Nikiski got the ball first and started on Seward’s 10-yard line. Once again, Berry came through with the touchdown run on fourth down to give Nikiski the lead.

Seward got its chance to win the game with the ball on Nikiski’s 10, but Michael Eiter ended the game with a pick to secure the victory.

“It was a stressful game,” said Nikiski head coach Paul Nelson. “It was hot and long, both sides were dying in that heat.”

Under clear skies that raised the temperatures in the normally cool and cloudy seaside town, Nelson said the Bulldogs showed determination to win against a Seward squad that matched up very closely.

“They kept battling, and kept trying and finally came through in the end,” Nelson said. “It was an awesome game. Seward played phenomenal.

“It’s probably the hottest I’ve ever seen Seward in my life.”

The win was crucial for Nikiski, which suffered a loss to Ketchikan in its conference opener last weekend.

Soldotna 55, Eagle River 19

The Stars scored 49 unanswered points after giving up an opening-drive touchdown to pick up their first win in Northern Lights Conference play this year.

The victory pushed SoHi to the top of the NLC at 1-0 and 4-1 overall, while the previously undefeated Wolves fell to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in conference.

Wyatt Medcoff powered the Stars to the win with three first-half touchdowns, leaving SoHi up 21-7 at halftime.

In a battle between the top two teams in the NLC — both teams were also ranked first and second in the ASBN weekly polls — it was the Wolves striking first. Eagle River quarterback Ryan Adkins opened the scoring late in the first quarter with a 1-yard QB sneak to give Eagle River the lead.

“We knew going in there, there was a chance if we didn’t play well, they’d hang around,” said SoHi head coach Galen Brantley Jr. “But we made some adjustments and the kids started making plays.”

Medcoff scored on an 8-yard scamper to tie it up with 10:26 left in the second quarter, then gave SoHi the lead for good with a big defensive play, grabbing an interception for a 28-yard pick-six with 4:43 left in the first half. Brantley Jr. said the interception return was helped by an increase in pressure the SoHi defense began putting on Adkins.

“That was really the momentum swinger in the game,” Brantley Jr. said about the interception return. “Once he made that play, we felt like we had it all the way.”

Medcoff scored again, on offense, with a 7-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds to play until the half. Soldotna led 21-7 at the break. Medcoff had 138 yards by halftime.

Medcoff scored his fourth touchdown of the day to begin the third quarter, putting SoHi up 28-7, and the Stars decided to try an onside kick with success. Brantley Jr. said the onside kick decision came down to pure success rate.

“We were having a tough time in kickoff coverage,” he said. “They were returning it to midfield, so it was more out of our own inadequacies in kickoff coverage.”

Aaron Faletoi made good on the onside kick with a 54-yard rumble into the end zone for a 35-7 lead, and Hudson Metcalf later caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jersey Truesdell to make it 42-7 with 6:32 left in the third quarter. SoHi was able to score 21 points in a span of 3:38 in the third.

Faletoi added his second TD run of the day early in the fourth quarter, and Austin Escott put a bow on the day with a scoring run late in the game.

West Valley 44, Kenai 6

The Kardinals fell in a nonconference meeting with Division II opponent West Valley Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks.

Titus Riddall scored the only points for Kenai in a loss that dropped the Kardinals to 2-3 overall on the season, with their first NLC matchup yet to come. Kenai will travel to play Eagle River next Friday night.

Kenai head coach Dustin Akana said the Kards were able to make some big plays, but mental errors and missed assignments dogged the team throughout the contest.

“We’re beating ourselves,” Akana said. “That’s what it came down to, way too many mental errors.”

Zach Burnett, Tucker Vann and Riddall provided the Kenai attack with a boost, with Burnett gaining 46 yards on six carries, Riddall getting 44 yards on 12 touches and Vann going 48 yards on seven.

Kenai QB Connor Felchle went 6 for 14 for 44 passing yards, and Kayden Daniels chipped in 20 yards on 2-for-3 passing. Burnett caught the lion’s share of those with 43 yards on four catches.

The Wolfpack opened the game with consecutive touchdown drives that put the home team up 16-0 before Kenai answered. Preston Damario burst through for a 74-yard run to the 1-yard line, then scoring on the next play just 57 seconds into the game. West Valley QB Maurice Maiden ran in for the two-point play.

Maiden then connected with Zach Campbell on a 37-yard touchdown strike.

Riddall’s one-yard scoring run with six minutes left in the first quarter put Kenai behind 16-6, but that would be all the offensive scoring the Kards could muster.

Maiden answered for the Wolfpack with an 81-yard touchdown rumble, and the deficit grew to 22-6 for Kenai.

A punt return gave West Valley a 30-6 lead at halftime.

“When we’re in the right spots and disciplined with position, we stopped them,” Akana said. “But just the mental mistakes here and there is what got us.”

Eielson 63, Homer 6

The winless season continued for the Mariners with a tough loss Saturday in Fairbanks in a rematch of last year’s Division III state semifinals. Homer dropped to 0-5 overall.

Homer QB Anthony Kalugin provided the only points for the Mariners with a pass to Prokopy Kohnev.

Homer head coach Walter Love wrote in a text that the Mariners executed better than last week’s 59-0 loss to Houston, but an illness ravaging the football team made for a tough day. Love said he left two players home due to sickness, and five total were ill, forcing him to pull three starters out by the second quarter.

“Rough game, but better,” Love wrote. “Put my JV in (the) third quarter. They made a good show.”

Homer will host Ketchikan next weekend. The Kings (3-1) sit second in the Peninsula Conference standings.

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