Will six seniors be enough for Soldotna?

Posted: Friday, August 17, 2001

Seniors equal success. Soldotna coach Rob Dimick knows this much. The big question the fifth-year coach has to answer as the Stars roll out the footballs for their 2001 campaign is exactly how many seniors it takes to be successful.

Three years ago, Dimick had just two seniors and the Stars struggled to a 2-6 record and last place in the Northern Lights Conference.

In 1999 and 2000, the Stars had more than 20 seniors and success followed. The 1999 squad made it to the state playoffs, while last year's unit won the Northern Lights Conference and played for the small-schools state football title.

'Skyview keeps popping up as the team to beat.'

Rob DimickSoldotna head coach

This year, Dimick's squad will field just six or seven seniors. Is that enough to keep from repeating 1998's 2-6 finish?


Soldotna High School junior varsity football team

"The year we had two seniors, the juniors never were able to step up," said Dimick, who had 57 players out for football. "With only two seniors, there just wasn't enough senior leadership.

"The seniors we have this year are working hard and the juniors are following. Is that enough? It's hard to say. Could you say rebuilding year? Yeah, but once we get going we could be OK. We have lots of work to do."

Although he's not loaded with seniors, Dimick certainly isn't ready to start counting down the days to kickoff in 2002 yet. Last year, Nikiski beat the Stars for the small-schools state title despite only having five seniors on the roster.

But in order to roll up wins, Dimick knows the Stars must do their retooling on the run. Because Soldotna had an undefeated run through the conference in 2000, opponents know that a victory over the Stars this year will be an extra-special feather in their caps.


Soldotna High School junior varsity football team

And Dimick wouldn't have it any other way.

"I talked about it on the first day of practice," Dimick said. "I look at it as motivation. We've got to work hard to get better every single day because teams are going to want to beat the defending conference champions."

One area where the Stars will have to start out strong is defense.

"Our defense has always been OK, and it'll still be OK," Dimick said. "Our offense is going to take some work."

The Stars had the top-ranked defense in the conference last year, giving up just 59 points in seven regular season games. In those seven games, Soldotna gave up just 602 yards on the ground and 330 through the air.

The defense this year will be led by senior inside linebacker Todd Ghormley, senior outside linebacker Cason Simpson and senior free safety Adam Kiff-meyer. Simpson was all-conference at outside linebacker last year, while Kiffmeyer joins the team for the first time after showing his athleticism on the basketball court last year.

Beyond that, Dimick had a lot of questions to answer about his defensive unit four days into practice. He said seniors Roy Stonecipher and Chris Bower would probably keep the helmets strapped up after offense and play on the defensive line.

Dimick also expects to turn junior Shawn Weigle loose on the defense line and junior Thomas Shimmin to plug holes at inside linebacker.

"It's easy when you have 22 seniors to plug people into places," Dimick said. "This year, we won't know until we get some of these guys game time."

On offense, the Stars plan to be their regular, ground-hugging selves. Last year Soldotna had the top offense in the conference, using the ground game to roll up 1,074 of its 1,502 yards.

Back charging through the line this year will be Simpson, who finished fifth in the conference in rushing last year with 286 yards. Junior Scott Laurion also will be a running back for Soldotna.

After the first week of practice, Dimick still didn't know who would hand Simpson and Laurion the ball. His best guess was that either senior Kyle Foster or junior Ricky Simpson would call signals for the team.

Paving the way for the running game will be linemen Stone-cipher, Bower, junior Josh Brantley, junior Caleb Sizemore and Shimmin.

Although Dimick said he wouldn't mind more seniors, he also said there's a bright side to working with so many unproven players.

"I look forward to coming to practice every day," he said. "There's not a lot of egos or complaining that goes on with this team. They just work hard, and that's going to make them better.

"I don't care if we finish 0-8. I like working with this team."

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