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Nikiski, Homer football face midweek tests

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Even after a 26-7, season-opening victory over Monroe Catholic, the Nikiski football team thinks it has more to show its home fans.

The Bulldogs won't have to wait long for that chance.

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Both Nikiski and Homer are involved in rare midweek games. The Bulldogs host nonconference foe Sitka tonight at 5 p.m., while the Mariners travel to play Thunder Mountain in Juneau at 8 p.m. Thursday.

"The kids are really hungry to come out and show what we can do," Nikiski assistant coach Scott Anderson said. "They're happy with the win, but not overly happy with the win."

Kaden Spurgeon rushed for 180 yards and a score to lead the Bulldogs in Week 1. Josh Brown added 75 yards and a score, and Stephen Hartley had 59 yards rushing, with a rushing and passing touchdown.

The Bulldogs only put 26 points on the board with their multidimensional attack due to turnovers. Nikiski lost two fumbles inside the Monroe 20, and also threw an interception in the red zone. Another fumble cost the Bulldogs a first down inside the Rams' 20.

"We'd have a huge play, get inside their 20, and fumble," Anderson said. "We've got to take care of the ball inside the 20 and get into the end zone."

Anderson said the Wolves will provide a good test. Sitka opened its season with a 33-19 victory over Ketchikan.

"They are definitely an up-and-coming program," Anderson said. "Especially with their new opportunities in the conference down there, they're pretty excited about football."

Anderson saw 10 or 11 Sitka players at a camp this summer. He said the team is athletic and has some size up front.

On defense, Anderson said the Bulldogs will have to control their gaps.

"We're bigger than we were last year, but we still have a lot of quickness up front," Anderson said. "We're so quick up front that our guys had a problem with over-pursuing. They've got to play under more control, settle in after they penetrate, and find the football."

The Bulldogs won't have Trevor Ray, their starting guard, this week due to injury. However, Garrett Coreson will make his first appearance of the season and bring size to the offensive line.

Homer at Thunder Mountain, 8 p.m. Thursday

This is the first game of a two-game Southeast odyssey for the Mariners.

After the game against the Falcons, Homer will play Sitka at noon Monday.

"It's a trip that will really tell the character of the young men that are scheduled to play varsity," Homer coach Camron Wyatt said. "They'll know more about themselves and the program when they return at 2 a.m. (Tuesday), then are expected in school that day."

Homer opened its season with a 54-14 victory against nonconference foe Valdez on Saturday. Wyatt said he was able to get all his eligible players into the game.

"What I did like is the team unity," Wyatt said. "This is one of the tightest groups that has ever come through our program. They demonstrated they could execute our base plays flawlessly."

Thunder Mountain went 8-0 in the regular season last year before losing to eventual small-schools state champion Soldotna in the first round of the playoffs. One of the Falcons' victims last year was the Mariners.

Thunder Mountain was blown out in its opener this year by Juneau-Douglas.

"This will be a test for the two programs," Wyatt said. "They lost a few key kids from last year. We have quite a few kids who have already been down there and experienced this."

In this year's new medium-schools division, the Southeast Conference of Thunder Mountain, Sitka and Ketchikan gets a playoff berth. Three teams from the Northern Lights Conference, the conference in which Homer plays, get playoff berths.

"This gives us a chance to go down there and see what those Southeast teams are all about," Wyatt said. "With Southeast schools, you never know. Some years they have big kids with a lot of talent, and some years they don't."

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