The good news for Soldotna and Kenai Central is all four of the major player awards went to the Stars and Kardinals in medium-schools All-State balloting announced Sunday.
The even better news for the central Peninsula’s Northern Lights Conference squads is that three of the four will be back to lead their teams again next year.
The Stars, owners an Alaska-record seven state football championships, a record-tying 29 straight victories and nine-straight NLC titles, had junior Drew Gibbs win Offensive Player of the Year and junior Trevor Walden win Defensive Player of the Year.
Galen Brantley Jr. was Coach of the Year for SoHi, while the Stars’ Eric Pomerleau was Assistant Coach of the Year.
Kenai junior lineman Zack Koziczkowski was Lineman of the Year, while Kards senior Kyle Foree was Utility Player of the Year.
Soldotna was well-represented on both teams, with six players on first-team offense, five players on first-team defense and two specialists.
North Pole, which lost to SoHi in the state final, had three on offense and two on defense. Kenai had two on offense, three on defense and two specialists, while Juneau-Douglas had one on offense and three on defense.
Gibbs was a first-team running back and outside linebacker for the second-straight year.
He had 112 carries for 982 yards and an 8.8 average. He caught four passes for 162 yards and had a total of 18 touchdowns.
Brantley Jr. said the offense was built around Gibbs, who more often than not got the ball when the Stars needed a few key yards.
“He’s such a physical athlete,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s a 210-pound running back with a very powerful lower body.
“He’s going to run through arm tackles and even if it’s not blocked perfect he will get you 3 or 4 yards.”
On defense, Gibbs had 24 assists, 13 tackles, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.
Brantley Jr. said Gibbs’ stats weren’t crazy on defense because his main job is to turn runners back inside.
Walden was first team at interior lineman and second team at tight end.
He had 24 tackles, 15 assists, eight tackles for loss and four sacks.
Brantley Jr. said Walden lined up at the point of attack for every offense the Stars saw.
“Trevor’s very gifted and he’s an awesome young guy as well,” the coach said. “He’s a real technically solid football player.
“When he’s anchored in that off-tackle hole, it really makes things difficult.”
Brantley Jr. said he views the coaching awards as more of an award to the whole staff of nine assistants.
“For me, I accept this award with all those guys that spend time away from their families, sleep on the floor in the summer and keep the weight room open in the summer,” Brantley Jr. said.
Koziczkowski was first team at guard and interior lineman. Kenai coach John Marquez said the lineman put on about 40 pounds in the offseason and it showed on the field.
“He got bigger, faster stronger and he was able to do things on the football field most people can’t do,” Marquez said. “He was one guy we left by himself a lot. He didn’t need anybody else to help him.”
Foree got the nod for his versatility. According to Marquez, he played running back and had 500 yards rushing and seven scores, wide receiver and had 200 yards receiving and two scores, quarterback, outside linebacker, free safety, cornerback, kickoff returner and punt returner.
“He played each position very well,” Marquez said. “That’s difficult to do.”
The efficiency of senior quarterback Brooks Furlong put him on the first team. He was 48 of 77 for 778 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Brantley Jr. said there’s a reason he rushed for just 164 yards.
“We needed him to be able to win,” the coach said. “We didn’t run him as much because we didn’t think we had the depth we had in past years.
“He was very capable of doing either. In the state game, when we needed yards, he proved he could tuck and go. I don’t think we win the state title without Brooks Furlong.”
Senior Ty Fenton was the first-team fullback, carrying 74 times for 815 yards, an average of 11.0 carry. He also caught four balls for 54 yards and had nine touchdowns.
Three years ago, Fenton’s future was in question due to a football concussion and a hockey concussion. But Brantley Jr. said he was able to play a tough position without incident.
“He’s either getting the ball or faking like he’s getting it, so he’s getting hit every single play,” the coach said. “He was the best faker and constantly drawing a crowd.”
Senior Matt Trammell made the first team at tackle. Brantley Jr. said the first-year starter improved immensely going through four years of the program.
“He blossomed into an outstanding football player,” the coach said.
Junior Austin Crowder was first team at guard. Brantley Jr. said SoHi’s guards have to be athletic, and the 195-pound Crowder is one of the fastest players on the team.
“The kid is tougher than nails,” the coach said. “He’d be a fullback in an I offense.”
Brantley Jr. said Dalton Best’s improvement in the weight room the past two seasons landed him on the first team at center.
“He’s probably our biggest, strongest player,” the coach said of the 260-pound junior. “Whenever there’s one-on-one situations, he always seems to come out on top.”
A stirring end to the season put senior Drew Fowler on the team at inside linebacker. Fowler had 50 assists, 27 tackles, nine tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. In SoHi’s complicated defensive scoring system, he was the leader in points.
But going against conference defensive players of the year at inside linebacker, Fowler needed something special to make the first team.
“He played his best two games in the last two games of the season,” Brantley Jr. said. “He played himself into being all-state.”
Senior Tim Duke made the first team at defensive back and return specialist. Duke was carted off the field after a scary hit against Juneau in the state semifinals, and the players wore his number on the back of their helmets in the championship game.
Brantley Jr. said Duke’s outstanding athleticism stood out.
“He’s one you didn’t want to kick to,” the coach said. “He has an extra gear most kids at our level don’t have.”
Senior Bailey Blumentritt also made first team at defensive back. He had 32 assists, 33 tackles and two interceptions.
“He really solidified the secondary,” Brantley Jr. said. “We had a bunch of question marks there, and early on I think he even started out at outside linebacker.”
SoHi’s final first-team player was senior kicker Bailey Jones. Brantley Jr. said Jones had a big playoffs, with four touchbacks in the title game to keep the ball from dangerous returners, and two deep kicks that led to scores in the semis.
Besides Koziczkowski, Kenai’s other first-team offensive player was senior Chris Lawson at tackle.
Marquez said Lawson was the verbal leader of the line.
“He’s got great feet, long arms and a defensive mentality playing on the offensive side of the ball,” Marquez said. “He’s very physical when he has to be on offense.”
On defense, senior Jace Baker made first team as outside linebacker, and he also was on the first team as punter.
Baker had 18 sacks and was second on Kenai in tackles.
“That’s outrageous, to have that many sacks and also anchor down the edge,” Marquez said. “He takes on offensive linemen like he’s a defensive lineman.”
Senior Chase Logan made first team at inside linebacker and second team as a running back.
Logan led the Kards in tackles and defensive points.
“He’s a safety at the next level,” Marquez said. “For him to play inside linebacker — he has to have the heart of a lion.
“He was the voice of reason and rallied the team during adversity.”
The final first team player for the Kards was Andrew Welborn at long snapper.
“That’s a position that will win or lose you ballgames,” Marquez said.
The coach said Welborn was flawless with his snaps all season.
The small-schools all-state team also was selected on Sunday, but was not available as the Clarion went to press.
2014 All-State Football Team
Offensive Player of the Year — Drew Gibbs, Soldotna.
Defensive Player of the Year — Trevor Walden, Soldotna.
Lineman of the Year — Zack Koziczkowski, Kenai.
Utility Player of the Year — Kyle Foree, Kenai.
Coach of the Year — Galen Brantley Jr., Soldotna.
Assistant Coach of the Year — Eric Pomerleau, Soldotna.
First team: Quarterback — Brooks Furlong, Soldotna; Running back — Deaundre Campbell, North Pole; Drew Gibbs, Soldotna; Fullback — Ty Fenton, Soldotna; Wide receiver — Adam Empson, Juneau; Garrett Wollmann, North Pole; Tight end — Shane Hursh, North Pole; Tackle — Chris Lawson, Kenai; Matt Trammell, Soldotna; Guard — Austin Crowder, Soldotna; Zack Koziczkowski, Kenai; Center — Dalton Best, Soldotna.
Second team: Quarterback — Andrew Rogers, North Pole; Running back — Connor Hicks, Ketchikan; Chase Logan, Kenai; Fullback — Simi Skipps, North Pole; Wide receiver — Tim Duke, Soldotna; Connor Seay, Homer; Tight end — Trevor Walden, Soldotna; Tackle — Lorenzo Malacas, Juneau; Andrew Risner, North Pole; Guard — Kaelin Deitrick, Juneau; Center — Shaun Pruitt, North Pole.
First team: Interior linemen — Kyle Fuller, North Pole; Zack Koziczkowski, Kenai; Lorenzo Malacas, Juneau; Trevor Walden, Soldotna; Outside linebacker — Jace Baker, Kenai; Drew Gibbs, Soldotna; Inside linebacker — Drew Fowler, Soldotna; Hunter Hickok, Juneau; Chase Logan, Kenai; Defensive back — Bailey Blumentritt, Soldotna; Tim Duke, Soldotna; Manase Maake, Juneau; Curtis McNeal, North Pole.
Second team: Interior linemen — Sage Hill, Soldotna; Brian McClennan, Ketchikan; Meki Sikione, Thunder Mountain; Jacob Yavorsky, Kodiak; Outside linebacker — Nate Fousel, Ketchikan; Trent Nayokpuk, North Pole; Inside linebacker — Nick Rice, North Pole; Defensive back — Cameron Eide, North Pole; Connor Hicks, Ketchikan; Sheldon Hutt, Homer.
First team: Punter — Jace Baker, Kenai; Return specialist — Tim Duke, Soldotna; Long snapper — Andrew Welborn, Kenai; Kicker — Bailey Jones, Soldotna.
Second team: Punter — Tee McBurnette, Ketchikan; Return specialist — Connor Hicks, Ketchikan; Long snapper — Brendan Van Kirk, Thunder Mountain; Kicker — Manase Maake, Juneau.