The Homer Mariners are hoping to make up for what they lack in size this year with speed and team unity.
"We've only got three guys on the team who are over 200 pounds," said Todd Phillips, now in his fifth year at the helm of the Mariners. "There's just not many big guys in the school.
"I guess Homer's too healthy."
Luckily for Phillips, Homer's also fast.
The Mariners backfield this year will feature seniors Michael Abbott, Matt Turkington and Paul Bacher. The three were part of the 400- and 800-meter relay teams that qualified for the state track meet last year.
"Our skill positions will be our strength this year," said Phillips, who will be assisted by Cameron Wyatt, Terry Fraley, Carlton Kuhns, Chris Cory and Adam Swode.
Senior Eric Young will be under center for Homer. Young, who benches over 300 pounds and squats over 500, saw his minutes at quarterback increase last year and he was the starter by the end of the season.
He has a number of wideouts that are over 6 feet to choose from, with the two most frequent targets likely to be juniors Luke Roberts and Aaron Smith.
The offensive line will be headed up by senior center Drew Shows, who was second team all-conference last year, and second-year senior starter Chris Fraker.
"The rest of our line is going to be pretty young," Phillips said.
Shows, who can run 40 yards in under five seconds, also will anchor the defense from his defensive end spot.
In the secondary, Phillips will turn his skill position players loose and also count on senior Daniel Oakland, a junior varsity star a year ago, for solid minutes at strong safety.
The Mariners will be young at linebacker.
Josh Stewart, Young, Turkington and Shows will be co-captains for Homer, which will wear navy and gold.
Last season, the Mariners finished 0-6 in the Northern Lights Conference and 0-8 overall.
"We had some good talent last year and we did some good things, but we couldn't win a game," Phillips said. "We had a lot of people focused on individual stuff and not on the team, although they played very hard."
This year, Phillips has been stressing team unity and he thinks the message is getting across.
Phillips also thinks the conference realignment will help his team. Last year, Homer opened with games against Palmer and Colony, two bigger schools from the Matanuska-Susitna valleys, and suffered some injuries that never quite healed.
"Now everybody has a chance," Phillips said of the realignment. "It'll be nice not getting beaten up by the bigger schools."
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