The Soldotna Stars had a breakthrough season in 1999, posting a 6-2 overall record and a 4-2 mark in the Northern Lights Conference to nab a berth in the state playoffs.
It will be a whole new cast of characters, though, if the Stars are to repeat last year's run.
"It's coming, but it's going to take some time," said Soldotna head coach Rob Dimick.
The Stars have their learning curve accelerated for them with a challenging schedule -- they open against NLC champ and state runner-up Wasilla and then face state champion Service in week two.
COLORS: Columbia blue, silver and white
1999 RECORD: 6-2 (4-2 NLC)
HEAD COACH: Rob Dimick (4th year)
ASSISTANTS: Sarge Truesdell, Jeff Baker, Dave Emery, Dave Richardson
CAPTAINS: Billy Moiles, Pat Rose, Sean Kelley, Matt DeRaeve
2000 VARSITY SCHEDULE
Aug. 12 WASILLA 2 p.m.
Aug. 18 at Service 6 p.m.
Aug. 25 at Skyview 6 p.m.
Sept. 2 HOUSTON 2 p.m.
Sept. 9 KETCHIKAN 2 p.m.
Sept. 16 KENAI 3 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Homer 2 p.m.
Home games in CAPS
"We're going to find out in a hurry," Dimick said. "The small-schools championship is going to be great, but I didn't want my kids not to be able to play those teams."
Team co-captain Billy Moiles, who Dimick called an all-state caliber player, returns to anchor the offensive and defensive lines for the Stars.
He'll be protecting senior Pat Rose on offense as Rose has the nod to start the season as the Soldotna quarterback.
"He throws the ball well and he's a good leader," Dimick said of Rose.
Dimick has made the Stars famous for their pounding ground game, though, and Soldotna will have a pair of athletic players taking the handoffs.
Seniors Sean Kelley and Houston Morris will line up in the backfield as the running backs in Soldotna's double-wing offense.
"Morris is about 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds," Dimick said, "and he can fly."
Kelley joins Moiles and Rose along with Matt DeRaeve as team captains.
Dimick said that the Stars should be solid at the skill positions, and that some juniors, particularly Roy Stonecipher and David Derleth, are showing promise along the line.
Dimick said it's the same story for the Stars on the defensive side of the ball.
"Our corners, safeties, outside linebackers and inside linebackers are OK," Dimick said. "We need to shore up our defensive ends and our tackles."
Soldotna junior varsity football
Dimick said he would like to see his players platooning at certain positions, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines, but isn't sure if he has the bodies to do it at this point in the season.
Stellar line play was a big key to Soldotna's success a season ago, when the Stars were ranked third on both offense and defense in the NLC.
The Stars rushed for 2,213 yards in eight regular-season games, an average of 277 yards per game, and scored 187 points. Soldotna's defense gave up just 77 points during the regular season and 806 yards on the ground -- second best in the NLC.
Dimick said he had about 68 players out for preseason workouts, a number he expects to grow as the fishing season winds down.
The Stars will get some help from several upperclassmen Dimick didn't expect to see out on the field this season.
"They just wanted to come out and play," Dimick said. "Some kids just weren't ready to play last season, or they had other things going on -- I don't know. But I'm always out in the hallways (looking for players)."
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