FAIRBANKS—The Barrow Whalers defender was on his back when Eielson running back Anthony Griffith had the ball during the second quarter of last Saturday afternoon’s small schools state semifinal at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base.

The two players looked at each other before the Ravens sophomore dashed away for a 47-yard touchdown that was part of a 68-0 win that advanced Eielson to this weekend’s small schools state championship.

“I guess he was seeing if he had me down, and I just kept going because the whistle didn’t blow,” Griffth said after the game.

Griffith is a big reason the season is still going for the unbeaten Ravens. Eielson, 8-0, faces the *7-2 Nikiski Bulldogs in the small schools state title game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium at Chugiak High School.

Nikiski won 49-6 against the visiting Monroe Catholic Rams in last Saturday’s other semifinal.

“It means a lot, and we’re all excited,” Griffith said of playing for a state title. “We’re going to hope this week goes by fast so we can get to that game.”

Griffith has been fast to the end zone several times this season.

His 24 touchdowns include 22 by rushing; the other two were on a kickoff return and an interception. He’s also Eielson’s leading rusher with 1,368 yards from 84 carries.

A year ago, Griffith was getting accustomed to high school football. This season, he’s looked like a player with four years of high school experience rather than just two.

“He has a pretty big impact on us,’’ said senior teammate and fellow running back Wyatt Dunlap. “He’s scored a lot of our touchdowns this season. He picks up the game pretty quickly, and he’s just an all-around athlete.”

Eielson head coach David DeVaughn saw indications in Griffith’s freshman season of the things to come in his sophomore year.

“Last year, he was this athletic kid,” said DeVaughn, “and you could see this was brewing under there, and he was ready to explode and be something special.”

Leadership is among Griffith’s qualities.

“This offseason, he put in some work and kind of came out of his shell,” the 13th-year Ravens head coach said.

“Even though he’s a sophomore, he’s one of those guys who the other guys are going to naturally follow. He’s an alpha dog and, and he’s grown into that and the guys have accepted him into that role.”

“When things are tough, he’s one of the guys you can call on,” DeVaughn added.

Griffith is modest about his growth since his freshman year and his success this season.

“I have to give thanks to God because God blessed me with this talent,” Griffith said. “It’s not all me, it’s the line. I have to give thanks to them for helping me.”

Griffith is friends with the guys who play on Eielson’s offensive line.

“I try to know them, so I know where they’re going to go so we can have that connection,” he said.

Griffith, like the rest of his teammates, has gotten to know the Bulldogs. Eielson defeated Nikiski 57-48 in a Greatland Conference regular-season game on Sept. 8 in Nikiski.

DeVaughn has described the game as a “track meet,” as the teams combined for 1,316 yards in total offense.

Griffith accounted for more than half of Eielson’s 704 yards rushing, compiling 389 yards on 15 carries with five touchdowns.

“They’re just a good football team,’’ Griffith said of Nikiski, “and I just try to do my best on every play.”

Contact staff writer Danny Martin at *459-7586.