The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is not losing a lot of head coaches after this prep season, but the district is losing a lot of head coaching experience.
At Seward High School, cross-country coach Dan Marshall is stepping down after 23 years. Marshall, who will continue to teach at the school, will be featured in the Clarion on June 15.
At Nikiski High School, Scott Anderson is leaving the girls basketball program after 27 years at Nikiski and turning it over to Rustin Hitchcock. Anderson is featured in this section.
Kenai Central High School is losing athletic director and head track coach Chris Hanson, who also has made coaching stops at Ninilchik School and Soldotna High School during his 19 years with the district. The Stars boys soccer program will be without Darryl Byerley, who was head coach for four years, assistant coach before that for 10 years, and also did either the boys or girls at Soldotna and Skyview middle schools for a total of 15 years.
Also stepping down are Kenai football coach Ted Riddall after one year, Seward ski coach Luke Rosier after three years and Homer ski coach Cole Talbot after one year. Replacements have not been announced for those positions.
One new coach that has been announced is Brianna Force. Force led the Kardinals to the small-squad state cheerleading championship for basketball this year. Next year, she will continue in that role, as well as starting a football cheerleading program.
Hanson hea ds north
Hanson started in Alaska at Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska before relocating to Ninilchik in 1999. There, he helped legendary girls coach Dan Leman for a few years before taking over the boys program.
The high-water mark at Ninilchik came in 2002, when the Wolverines lost to Cook Inlet Academy in double overtime for the Class 2A state championship. Ninilchik had defeated Point Hope in triple overtime to advance to the tournament final.
Hanson then moved to Soldotna High School, where he coached the boys varsity for a few years, before spending the last six years at Kenai Central. He was head track coach and athletic director for the past three years.
“It’s been great,” Hanson said. “All three communities were great communities to work in. All have great families and great kids. I’ve enjoyed my time in all three of them.”
One big change that happened almost totally on Hanson’s tenure was Kenai transitioning from a Division I, or large school, to Division II, or small school. Kenai will be Division II in basketball, cross-country, hockey, football, soccer, softball, volleyball, wrestling, cross-country skiing, and track and field.
Hanson said Kenai’s ability to compete despite constantly being outnumbered in recent years is impressive. The Kardinals girls cross-country team was second at the Division I level in 2017.
“I think it speaks to the kids we have in Kenai and it says a lot about the coaches we have working here,” Hanson said. “We have incredible people working with kids, making them better people on the field and the court, and better in life period.”
Jesse Settlemyer, who will take over as athletic director, said he has known Hanson for about five years, particularly the last three as an assistant track coach. The new head track coach has not been announced.
“He’s a really good communicator,” Settlemyer said of Hanson. “He’s very well-liked by the athletes who have played for him.
“His main strength is being able to communicate what he wants, then being able to motivate most athletes to perform.”
Settlemyer has also spent enough time learning the athletic director job from Hanson that he knows the behind-the-scenes detail it will take.
“He’s going to be missed,” Settlemyer said. “There will be big shoes to fill. We will miss not having him around.”
Hanson will be the new principal at Noatak.
“Ever since I’ve lived in this state, I’ve always wanted to work in the Arctic,” Hanson said. “I’ve hunted up there before and really enjoyed the area and the people up there. It will be a new life experience.”
Byerley provides crucial link
In order for the game of soccer to grow across the United States, a bunch of adults who hadn’t played the game needed to step up and learn the game in order to teach it to their sons and daughters. Byerley did just that.
“I just think it’s very interesting to think about where soccer on the peninsula would be without a guy like Darryl that put in his time and effort to learn the game,” said Erik Dolphin, a Soldotna High School assistant and 2008 Soldotna graduate. “A lot of guys from my era are where we are because Darryl put in extra time.
“We’re coming back and helping out and he’s been a huge influence.”
Byerley said soccer was not available to him growing up in Illinois, but he started as a coach at the Boys and Girls Club in 1998 as his kids gravitated to the sport.
“I had the time available to learn the game and went on from there,” Byerley said.
Dolphin said at this year’s banquet, Byerley gave his assistant a bunch of the videos and textbooks he had collected to learn the game.
He started coaching comp soccer, then middle school soccer in 2002 and Soldotna boys high school soccer as an assistant to Jeff Siemers in 2003. The prior year, Siemers had been without an assistant.
“While I didn’t have the soccer knowledge to step up and coach the varsity level at that time, I did know the basics of drills and conditioning,” Byerley said.
Prior to moving to Alaska, Byerley, who holds a doctorate in physiology, had been a professor at the university level.
“I’ve always enjoyed kids and teaching,” he said. “This gave me an opportunity to work with kids, teach them something and help them develop.”
In Byerley’s time as coach, he said the ability of the players has progressed tremendously. He said players are spending a lot more time with the ball at their feet, and knowledge of the game has also advanced because international soccer is now so readily available on television.
“I think kids have gotten to know the game, but as athletes they’re no better,” Byerley said. “Their ability to do things with the ball has progressed.”
When Dolphin was in high school, he played against Byerley’s teams when Dolphin was at Skyview High School, and played for Byerley after transferring to Soldotna as a senior.
“Before I ever even played for him, Darryl was a guy who set up open gyms for us back in the day two or three times a week,” Dolphin said, adding that Byerley also got Dolphin into coaching at Skyview Middle School.
Byerley says he and his wife, Rebecca, have been involved in high school sports for a long time and will continue to be involved. He encourages more adults to do the same, and thanks all parents for the dedication that made his job easier.
“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with all the boys and girls starting as seventh-graders and see some of them off to college,” Byerley said. “Some have played at the next level, which is great, but it’s been fun to see all of them have success.”