The Nikiski football team may have come up short in its quest to take the small-schools title this season, but the Bulldogs proved they will have a rock to build their title quest around next season in small-schools All-State voting conducted Sunday.
Luke Johnson, a 6-foot-0, 220-pound junior, was named the Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches.
There was only one team with the honor of being All-State, and Johnson got three nods on that squad.
He made it on offense as a guard and on defense as an inside linebacker and punter.
And Johnson wasn’t the only member of Nikiski’s junior class making the Bulldogs an imposing threat for next season.
Of the 12 All-State slots the Bulldogs took up, seven were occupied by juniors.
Despite coming up short in bids against Eielson in the regular season and small-schools title game, the Bulldogs put the most players on the All-State team.
On offense, Nikiski had six players, while Eielson had three, Seward had two and Valdez and Monroe had one apiece.
On defense, the Bulldogs again had six players while Eielson had five and Valdez, Barrow and Monroe had one apiece.
Christian Riddall, a 6-0, 205-pound senior, was the other Bulldogs player honored on offense and defense. Riddall was tabbed at halfback and outside linebacker.
In the regular season, Riddall tied for the lead on the Peninsula with 1,134 rushing yards on just 76 attempts. He scored 21 touchdowns on the ground and added three more scores and 133 yards through the air.
Riddall then had a monster game in the state-title tilt, rushing for 256 yards and seven touchdowns.
Cade Anderson, a 6-0, 175-pound quarterback, also made the first team. Anderson led the Peninsula with 1,069 passing yards in the regular season. He was 52 of 85 for 12 touchdowns and just one interception.
Hunter Holloway, a 5-10, 150-pound junior, made the team at wide receiver. Holloway led the Peninsula with 18 receptions, with the catches going for 427 yards and five touchdowns.
Leading the way for the Peninsula’s top offense, with 3,526 yards during the regular season, were all-state linemen Johnson, 6-2, 205-pound senior tackle Ben Carstens and 5-10, 215-pound senior center Jacob Williams.
On defense, Nikiski allowed just 640 yards through the air in the regular season. For that, defensive backs Dylan Broussard, a 5-10, 160-pound junior, and Nico Castro, a 5-7, 145-pound senior, made the first team.
Jon McCormick, a 5-10, 205-pound junior, also made All-State and interior lineman.
Seward got a pair of All-State offensive players for its run to the playoffs. Howie Hubbard was honored at kicker and Terrance Annoigyuk was honored at return specialist.
Small-schools All-State selections
Offensive Player of the Year — Anthony Griffith, Eielson.
Defensive Player of the Year — Luke Johnson, Nikiski.
Offense: Quarterback — Cade Anderson, Nikiski; Halfback — Christian Riddall, Nikiski; Fullback — Anthony Griffith, Eielson; Wide receiver — Hunter Holloway, Nikiski; Tight end — Mickey Radotich, Valdez; Tackles — Ryan Crooks, Eielson; Ben Carstens, Nikiski; Guards — Austin Edson, Eielson; Luke Johnson, Nikiski; Center — Jacob Williams, Nikiski; Kicker — Howie Hubbard, Seward; Return specialist — Terrance Annoigyuk, Seward; Long snapper — Peter Button, Monroe.
Defense: Outside linebackers — Kalib Dunlap, Eielson; Christian Riddall, Nikiski; Inside linebackers — Luke Johnson, Nikiski; Austin Edson, Eielson; Defensive backs — Anthony Griffith, Eielson; Antonio Griffith, Eielson; Dylan Broussard, Nikiski; Nico Castro, Nikiski; Defensive line — Branden Derifield, Valdez; Jon McCormick, Nikiski; Jon Baird, Eielson; Tevita Vehikitie, Barrow. Punter — Luke Johnson, Nikiski; Utility player — Brian Meyer, Monroe.