Northern Lights is up for grabs

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2000

Part of newness is not knowing what to expect, so it is no surprise that coaches have said the new Northern Lights Conference is up for grabs this year.

In recent years, Matanuska-Susitna valleys schools Palmer, Wasilla and Colony had a near lock on NLC supremacy. But with those schools now in the Railbelt, and unknown quantity Ketchikan joining the NLC, the conference will have a lot more suspense this season.

"On any given day, anybody can beat anybody," said Kenai coach Jim Beeson. "I don't think who goes to the playoffs will be decided until the final week of the season.

"We play Skyview the final week. I hope we're playing with a chance to win and make the playoffs."

Skyview coach Wade Marcuson agrees that things should be more interesting now that the Valley schools are gone.

"We stayed with Palmer and Soldotna stayed with Wasilla before losing, but Colony already has beaten (defending state champ) Service," Marcuson said. "Colony's just loaded."

While area football fans are already familiar with NLC peninsula schools Homer, Kenai, Soldotna and Skyview, one less familiar program is Southeast school Ketchikan.

The Kings, who lost big in their conference opener to Homer last weekend, haven't had high school varsity football in a long time.

"We've always had high-school-aged players playing football, but it's always been in a city league," said Kings coach Rick Ballestrini. "Football's been around here for about 52 years."

Ketchikan has experienced football players because kids can begin playing tackle football in the community at the age of 8. However, the Kings will have to overcome a lack of numbers if they want to succeed this year.

Ketchikan had just 15 players make the trip north to play against Homer.

"I think we can be very competitive," Ballestrini said. "We're just kind of small as far as numbers go."

The Kings also will be young, with four seniors, four freshmen, one junior and six sophomores.

One name area fans should be hearing a lot of is Geoff Nordlund, a senior running back. The speed and strength that allowed Nordlund to win the 110-meter hurdles at the state track meet last year will make him hard to catch up to and bring down.

Sophomore Jay Fulk will take the snaps for the Kings, while seniors Matt Hamilton, Bobby Dyson and Thomas Grass will be key linemen.

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