After going to the 'Dawgs in its first three years, is the Great Land Conference title ready to be thrown to the Wolves, or even the Lions?
The conference this year is markedly different from the one that Nikiski dominated in winning the first three GLC crowns.
Gone is Glennallen, a perennially struggling program which folded before the 2000 season. But new to the conference are Sitka and Anchorage Christian Schools, two fresh, enthusiastic programs which don't plan on taking long to make a mark in the Great Land.
Sitka already has turned a lot of heads due to its 39-7 victory over Seward on opening weekend.
"If that's a surprise, then whoever plays Sitka next also will be surprised," said Seward assistant coach Roger Steinbrecher. "They are not a first-year team. They've played in youth leagues for years."
Steinbrecher even went so far as to predict Sitka, which faces Nikiski Saturday, will win the GLC crown.
Sitka coach Mark Mangini said his players were anxious to make the transition from a club team to a varsity program.
"Our club team's been undefeated the past couple of years so it should be interesting to see how we stack up," Mangini said. "We'll be playing better teams so we're going into this as humble as pie."
Mangini said his team currently has 28 varsity players, with 11 juniors, nine sophomores and eight seniors. He said the strength of the Wolves will be the skill positions, but Sitka also is huge on the line, where four of the players are over 250 pounds.
At ACS, head coach Dave Duncan is reviving a program that last played in the early 1980s.
"We're starting from ground zero," said Duncan, who has just eight kids who have played football before on his 44-man team.
One of those players who has experience is sophomore quarterback Richard Stafford, who played at Service his freshman year. Stafford led the Lions to a 47-0 victory over the Service C team Saturday.
ACS assistant John Hostetter, who was an assistant at state powerhouse Service the last four years, was impressed enough to make a bold prediction.
"He said we'll be in the playoffs this year," Duncan said. "That would be a big step for us, but he's pretty impressed with our talent level."
At Houston, the Hawks are hoping the return of senior running back Jeff Nagel, one of the conference's top offensive players last year, will get them over the hump. Houston, which opened its season with a 28-7 loss to Nikiski, was winless in the conference last season.
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