Panthers take big strides behind Reily

Posted: Tuesday, September 05, 2000

Labeling Stryder Reilly as the strong, silent type is more or less accurate, but it barely begins to tell the Skyview High School senior's story.

"Everybody has this tremendous respect for him," Skyview football coach Wade Marcuson said of his team captain. "He doesn't ask for it, but he draws it anyway."

Reilly, listed as a 5-foot-10, 175-pound fullback and middle linebacker on the Panthers roster, has let his performance on the field do his talking for him. Through Thursday's tilt with Homer, Reilly had carried the ball 32 times for 96 yards, averaging a modest 3 yards per carry.

But the yards he picks up are anything but modest -- moving the pile on third-and-one to pick up a first down, or plunging two yards up the middle for a touchdown.

What's more, Reilly's lead blocking has made the rest of the Skyview running game possible.

"Stryder really plows the way for (Travis Endsley)," said Skyview quarterback Ely Evanson, "and we count on him for the short game."

Reilly was voted into his role as captain by his teammates and it's a role he takes seriously.

"I try not to get down on people. I try to keep things positive," Reilly said. "Whenever there's a negative feeling, we slip (as a team), and if we slip we usually lose -- that's true of any team.

"I try to make sure everybody's got a good attitude. There are days when it's pouring rain and attitudes are down. When the team's dragging, I've got to be the one to pick things up. You can't have a bad attitude in practice. If kids think their captain is getting down, they're going to get down."

In fact, the Panthers' final play against Homer last Thursday illustrated the respect the squad has for its leader. With the game already won and nine seconds left on the clock, the Panthers came out in a spread formation on the Mariners' 2-yard line.

Homer's defense adjusted to the formation, creating just enough of a hole in the middle for Reilly to scoot through for his first touchdown of the season.

While Reilly likely didn't ask for the ball, it was important to his coach and his teammates that he got the touchdown as a reward and a thank you for his hard work.

"I like to run the ball," Reilly had said prior to the Homer game. "I've been getting it a lot this year. You've got to give it to the other tailback, too, but it's nice to get the ball. I'm not going to complain."

Finding the end zone untouched also must have been a pleasant surprise for Reilly, who, whether it be as a fullback on offense, a linebacker on defense or a member of Skyview's special teams, pretty much expects to hit or be hit on every play.

"(Defense) is a rush, too," Reilly said. "It's fun making big hits.

"We've got seven players that play both ways. It's pretty hard when you're in on every play. With just 15 minutes (to catch your breath) at halftime. You're pretty exhausted by the end of the game."

Reilly spends his summers preparing himself for the pounding, working out at Skyview High School or running with a tire tied behind him up and down the street by his family's Kasilof home.

Reilly's drive on the athletic field does run in the family. Skyview coaches chuckle about not letting his older brothers Zach and Levi line up against each other during practice drills for fear that they would knock each other senseless -- and then want to do it again.

Zach is now studying engineering in college in Hawaii, while Levi and Reilly's other brother Keegan are attending Oregon State and studying environmental engineering and computer science, respectively.

Reilly said that his close family ties have been important to him.

"We did a lot of hunting and fishing together," Reilly said. "We're a really close family -- a lot closer than most."

"There's the four boys and there's me and (Stryder's mother) Maggie," said Reilly's father, Mark. "His grandfather and grandmother and uncles and aunts and cousins in the area -- there's Reillys out in North Kenai and Kenai and all around."

Reilly even worked for the family business, Reilly's Construction, with his father this summer, building "everything from cabins to houses."

"He works pretty hard. He always has," Mark said.

Reilly's off the field hobbies are just as intense as his on the field exploits. His favorite winter pastime is snowboarding, whether it be the halfpipe at Alyeska or the backcountry around Turnagain Pass.

"I like to go up to the pass and hike around up there," Reilly said. "You get better powder, better drops, better jumps and more trees. It's a little bit more challenging."

Reilly said he's a B student in the classroom, something Marcuson considers an accomplishment when he thinks of Reilly as a Skyview freshman.

"He's come a long ways as far as his maturity level," Marcuson said. "As a freshman, just getting him to pass was one thing."

"It's a challenge," Reilly said. "My strongest subject would be history. Everything fascinates me about history."

Reilly said he'd like to become a firefighter after high school, though his family is hoping he'll give college a try before attending firefighting school.

"I hope he goes to college. I never had that chance," Mark said. "I think he could play at a smaller college, but that's up to him."

In the meantime, there's still plenty of high school football left this season. Skyview's next game is against Nikiski, and Reilly will be lining up against one of his cousins from North Kenai, Bulldog quarterback and linebacker Josh Reilly.

"Football's pretty special to him," Mark said of his son. "He loves to play the game, and he's not bad for 160 pounds. He plays a clean game, he plays a fair game."

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