Ned Clooten takes the reins of the Nikiski High School program this season after the Bulldogs went without a championship banner for the first time in five years last season.
"There's a real sense of pride coming in that's why I feel comfortable taking over a program built by Scott Anderson," said Clooten, who is in his first head coaching job. "(The team) came in with the attitude that they're going to work hard. With the work ethic instilled in this team, it's real easy to coach these guys."
The Bulldogs won the Alaska School Activities Association small-schools championship in 2000 and 2001 after taking the Great Land Conference crown the state's small-schools championship before ASAA sanctioned the small-schools playoffs in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Last year, the team went 3-5 overall, but was 3-1 in Great Land Conference play. The Bulldogs were eliminated from playoff contention in a tiebreak after the final game of the season.
Clooten will have the luxury of having returning players at several key positions, including his offensive backfield. Travis McGahan was slowed by an injury last year, but completed 23 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs.
Joining McGahan in the backfield will be tailback Billy Anderson, one of the top rushers on the peninsula with 483 yards on 97 carries, an average of 5 yards per carry.
COLORS: Black and silver
2002 RECORD: 3-5 (3-1 in the GLC)
HEAD COACH: Ned Clooten (first year)
ASSISTANTS: Lee Chadwick, Jake Doth, Tim Johnson, Gabe Lavigueur.
CAPTAINS: Billy Anderson, Skyler Gallien, others to be named.
2003 VARSITY SCHEDULE
Aug. 9 at Homer 3 p.m.
Aug. 16 at Eielson Noon
Aug. 22 ACS 6 p.m.
Aug. 29 SEWARD 6 p.m.
Sept. 5 SOLDOTNA 6 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Valdez 1 p.m.
Sept. 20 HOUSTON 2 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Sitka 11 a.m.
Home games in CAPS
Anderson won't be the team's only weapon.
"I'm real pleased with the depth we have in the backfield," Clooten said, adding that he'd be comfortable with every player on the depth chart taking handoffs.
Clooten said the team picked up some athletes who didn't play football last season Anthony Lorenzo will see time at fullback and Jeremiah Taylor could give the Bulldogs a chance to stretch the field from his wide receiver position and said he'll be looking to Skyler Gallien to provide leadership on the line. John Schwenke also will make an impact along the line.
With the addition of Eielson and Valdez to the Great Land Conference, Clooten expects every game to be a battle.
"It'll be tough," Clooten said. "(Eielson) is a quality program. Year in and year out, they're right in the hunt. It should be real interesting."
Clooten said his team will focus on getting better one day at a time.
"The No. 1 goal we've set is just to get better with every practice, every game and every play," Clooten said. "If we concentrate on that, everything else will fall into place. We want to continue to get better as the year goes on."
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