Lincoln Johnson left the Nikiski football team four years ago in better shape than he found it, and now, the Greenville College senior is at it again.
Johnson, a 2013 Nikiski graduate, will be graduating from Greenville’s (Illinois) premedical program in the spring with a double major in biology and chemistry, and once the academic year is over, Johnson said he plans to enroll in medical school.
But, his days with the Panthers football squad are already behind him. Johnson finished his collegiate career with the Division II team this fall with a host of accolades.
Chief among them are First Team All-Conference honors his sophomore season as a defensive end, Second-Team All-Conference honors as a defensive lineman, and the Sportsmanship award this year.
Plus, he has three straight years of making the Academic All-Conference team, and has his sights set squarely on another.
“I kind of describe all those as icing on the cake,” Johnson said via phone this week. “It’s nice to get it, but the cake is playing football and being with a good group of guys.”
Johnson, the son of Tim and Charlene Johnson, won an Alaska small-schools state championship with Nikiski as a junior in 2011, then joined the Panthers in fall of 2013 as the team streaked to a 9-2 overall record in Division II play. For his career, Johnson started 38 of 41 games as the team went 21-20.
As a senior on the Panthers, Johnson said it was most important to leave the program in better shape than he found it, a virtue that he learned and has practiced both in high school and at the collegiate level.
“The seniors my freshman year are some of the closest football friends I’ve got,” he said. “They poured so much into my well-being and me succeeding, so it’s my turn now.”
This past fall, Johnson was part of a Panthers team that limped to a 2-8 overall record, a campaign that was dealt its share of challenges, most notably the national anthem protests that continued to sweep the nation, Johnson said. A couple of Johnson’s teammates took a knee for the anthem.
As a leader of the defensive team, Johnson said before and after games, the protests occasionally became a distraction, but with his younger comrades looking to him for guidance, it became necessary to step into the leadership role and keep the team focused on playing football.
Johnson said leadership was something Greenville coach Robby Schumacher impressed on him.
“You always have somebody that’s watching you, and on a 2-8 team, it’s easy to be overlooked,” he said. “But the people are still watching what you’re doing.”
Over the 10-game season, Johnson recorded 23 solo tackles, nine more than any other of his campaigns, and 34 total. He also was able to pressure the opposing quarterback more, tallying 6.5 sacks, bettering his previous season-high of four, which was good for fifth-highest for the Panthers defense.
Johnson also tied the team-high for fumbles recovered with three on the year.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the man I am today without college football and Greenville.”
Nikiski grad Thompson stars in net
Another superlative season came to a close last weekend for Nikiski’s Rachel Thompson.
Thompson, a Highline College sophomore, made eight saves in a 2-0 victory Nov. 11 over CC Spokane in the Northwest Athletic Conference semifinals in Tukwila, Washington. The win advanced Highline to the NWAC championship game against Peninsula College (Washington), where they lost 1-0.
The 2015 Nikiski graduate is a West Region All-Star goalie that hadn’t allowed a goal in over 1,000 minutes, stretching back to Sept. 24. That streak was finally ended in overtime of the NWAC championship, a game in which Thompson made five saves.
Thompson ends her second season at Highline with 25 shutouts in 42 career starts, including a 13-game streak of blank sheets.
SoHi pitcher Daugherty signs with Salem International
Soldotna senior Matthew Daugherty put pen to paper and signed his letter of intent to play baseball at Salem International University in West Virginia, a Division II school.
Daugherty, a versatile right-handed pitcher that won a state American Legion championship with the Post 20 Twins this summer, will be attending school on baseball scholarship. Daugherty also helped get the SoHi Stars to the state high school tournament in June.
Daugherty has played the sport for over 13 years, and put that experience to good use when he attended the Perfect Game tournament in Arizona this September, which helped him garner attention from college coaches.
Daugherty will be pursuing a biology degree at Salem International.
With the 32-win Twins this summer, Daugherty proved his versatility by doubling as a starter and reliever throughout the campaign. Daugherty put an exclamation point on his year with a big start against Service in the state tournament, a 17-1 win for the Twins that saw Daugherty give up one run in five innings of three-hit ball. Later in the week, Post 20 defeated Service in a dramatic 8-7 thriller for the title.