The 2012 Small Schools All-State football players roster was unveiled this week, and it showcases the talents of the 2012 Nikiski Bulldogs, a team that nearly won a second consecutive small-schools state title, coming up short to Greatland Conference nemesis Eielson 27-7 on October 13. All small school football coaches voted for each category.
The Bulldogs put seven players on the defensive first team and three on the offensive first team. Overall, eight Nikiski players made the list.
“Year to year, we end up having quite a few of our kids on the conference and all state lists, and we all vote and we share the table and it’s obvious that the other coaches are seeing the Eielson and Nikiski kids are on a higher level,” Nikiski head coach Ted Riddall said.
Senior Stephen Hartley was nominated for three positions — halfback, inside backer and return specialist. Hartley ended the year with 2,056 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns, a Nikiski school record.
Senior Lincoln Johnson racked up three titles for himself, voted as offensive tackle, defensive lineman and the most impressive of all, being voted as the best lineman at the state competition.
“Definitely, these are players that are pretty special,” Riddall said. “They are some of the best that we’ve had.”
Riddall pointed out earlier this season that the 2012 squad has been the most competitive team Nikiski has had since the 2001-02 team.
“The 2001 team produced some special kids, but this team would be right in the thick of things with them, I think,” Riddall said. “There’s a big difference in that there were 22 juniors and seniors on the team back then, and we beat Kenai that year, so it’s a little different.”
Riddall said Johnson might be the best lineman that Nikiski has had, and Hartley the best running back the ‘Dogs have had.
“When you look at this list from someone else’s standpoint, you would think there’s a lot of Nikiski and Eielson kids on it, and it’s too much, but they all deserve to be there,” he said. “It’s nice to see our kids on the list.”
Tight End — Taylor Masterson, Barrow
Tackles — Joey Dahlberg, Eielson; Lincoln Johnson, Nikiski
Guards — Matt Tallman, Eielson; Devan Berry, Nikiski
Center — Clayton Innis, Eielson
Halfbacks — Stephen Hartley, Nikiski; Anthony Griffith — Eielson
Fullback — Wyatt Dunlap, Eielson
Wide Receiver — Roderick Bynum, Monroe
Quarterback — Jovante Kincaid, Eielson
Defensive Backs — Jesse Ross, Nikiski; Anthony Griffith, Eielson; Tyler Wells, Monroe
Defensive Lineman — Lincoln Johnson, Nikiski; Jesse Eide, Nikiski; Shawn Smith, Eielson; Matt Tallman, Eielson
Inside Backers — Stephen Hartley, Nikiski; Wyatt Dunlap, Eielson
Outside Line Backers — Christian Riddall, Nikiski; Jovante Kincaid, Eielson
Kicker — Alex Callahan, Monroe
Punter — Luke Johnson, Nikiski
Return Specialist — Stephen Hartley, Nikiski
Long Snapper — Jesse Ross, Nikiski
Utility Player — Michael Stangel, Nikiski
Offensive Player of State — Anthony Griffith, Eielson
Defensive Player of State — Wyatt Dunlap, Eielson
Lineman of State — Lincoln Johnson, Nikiski
All State Coach of the Year — Dave Devaughn, Eielson