Despite taking over the starting fullback position five games into the season, Skyview senior Andrew Smith led the Panthers in rushing this season.
But Skyview coach Ty Salness said Smith's contribution to Skyview's morale has been just as important as Smith's contribution on offense.
"Andrew helped us to be competitive this year. He's a real joy to coach, he's nice to teammates and he's one of the team leaders," said Salness, whose team finished 1-7 this year.
"It's tough keeping any team together with a losing record. This is my 12th year coaching high school, and this has still been one of the more enjoyable years. The kids' attitude has been fun. We've kept our smiles. And Andrew Smith contributed a lot there."
Even at the beginning of the year, this season had tough written all over it for Skyview. The Panthers returned just two starters from last year, and one of those wasn't able to play much this year due to injury.
In addition, Salness was in his first year as coach. He hadn't been in the program at all before this year, so players had to learn a new system.
It fell on players like Smith to keep things positive as the losses mounted.
"It's been a real positive year," Smith said. "We've been having fun, despite losing.
"It's going to take a few years, but they're trying to establish a positive program at Skyview. I hope the 11 seniors this season had something to do with that."
Smith's mother, Charlene, said Andrew has always had a knack for fostering a positive environment.
An example came this summer, when Smith worked at a cannery. He ended up working with some people from Japan curing salmon eggs.
"He had so much fun with those guys," Charlene said. "He was at football practice when they left. They left him a gift and told the supervisor they were so sorry they missed Andrew, and wished him the best."
Smith also was able to contribute at fullback this year thanks to a knack for seizing opportunity.
As a freshman, Smith got to football practice a couple weeks late because he was serving as a bat boy for the Peninsula Oilers at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.
He ended up playing offensive line and linebacker for the C-team that year, but as a sophomore Skyview's coaches toyed with the idea of moving Smith to fullback.
Smith confirmed the idea would be a good move when he ran 45 yards for a touchdown on his first carry during an intrasquad scrimmage.
He spent his sophomore year learning the position on junior varsity, then moved up to varsity as a junior only to have injury wipe out his season after just two games.
The injury was a combination of a damaged calf muscle and a benign bone tumor in Smith's femur just above the knee joint.
Smith recovered from the injury and started for the Panthers this year at strong safety. When the starting fullback quit, he moved into the starter's slot in a game against Kenai and again seized the opportunity, rushing for 100 yards on eight carries against the Kardinals' stingy run defense.
He then held the starting fullback job the rest of the season. He was recently nominated for the Wendy's High School Heisman Award.
"He'd been working real hard playing behind Logan McKay on offense," Salness said. "When Logan left he got a good shot, and he popped of a 100-yard game.
"He really just glides through the hole."
Smith also plays basketball for the Panthers. While Smith didn't start playing football until his freshman year of high school, Smith has played basketball since the first grade.
Last year, Smith saw some action on the varsity squad, but played a lot of junior varsity ball. He was named the MVP of the junior varsity squad.
"I'm looking forward to going out and having some fun on the court my senior year," Smith said. "I just want to have some fun and do the best we can."
In the name of having some more fun his senior year, Smith is trying new activities.
He already serves as the senior class treasurer on the student council. It's his first year of being involved with the student council.
Smith also mentioned he might like to try track and field and baseball in the near future.
He carries a 3.0 grade-point average and is not sure what he wants to be doing next year.
But Charlene said the traits Andrew has shown at the cannery and on the football field bode well for his future.
"The sky's the limit," Charlene said. "Andrew could go any way the wind blew him and be OK, because he can adapt and adjust, and he's likable and a hard worker.
"He gets along with most everybody."
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