The All-Northern Lights Conference team, released Wednesday, reads like a who's who of peninsula high school football.
Soldotna, the NLC champs for the 2000 season, produced the Lineman of the Year in Billy Moiles as well as the Defensive Player of the Year in linebacker Matt DeRaeve. In all, Soldotna had five players fill seven spots on the all-NLC first team.
Kenai, the NLC runner-up, had the most players make the first team as six Kardinals, led by the Offensive Player of the Year, running back Jeff Jackson, were selected to fill nine positions on the first team.
Skyview High School placed five players on the all-NLC first team, and one Homer Mariner -- Drew Shows -- filled three spots on the first team.
In addition to the 17 peninsula players selected to the team, two coaches, Kenai's Jim Beeson and Soldotna's Rob Dimick, were honored as Co-Coaches of the Year.
Moiles made his mark this season as an integral part of the key to Soldotna's championship drive -- the offensive and defensive lines. Under Dimick's tutelage, Soldotna's philosophy has been to run the ball and then run it some more. That the Stars were able to do that effectively and efficiently is a tribute to the players battling in the trenches.
"He's worked himself into that position," Dimick said of Moiles' all-conference selection. "He never stops working."
Soldotna's defense, likewise, played physical football along the line of scrimmage, and Moiles was a frequent visitor in the opponents' backfield.
DeRaeve, the Defensive Player of the Year and an all-NLC selection at inside linebacker, ensured that very few opposing running backs would find much of a hole to run through, and should they elude the grasp of one of the Stars' lineman, DeRaeve was often the one to wrap them up before they could make any substantial gains.
"I've been doing this for a long time, and I've never had a kid with those kind of instincts," Dimick said. "He sees it, and he fills it in a hurry."
Joining Moiles on the all-NLC first team is tackle Roy Stonecifer, a stalwart all season for the Stars, and wide receiver Shaun Williams (eight catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season).
Along with Moiles, Williams also was named a two-way first team player, earning a spot on the defensive unit as a defensive back. Cason Simpson joins Williams, Moiles and DeRaeve on the first team defense for his efforts at outside linebacker.
Jackson, the Offensive Player of the Year, led the NLC with 522 carries for 119 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. Jackson ran for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Kenai's playoff loss to Nikiski.
"(Jackson's selection) was a pleasant surprise," Beeson said. " He had a great year. Our focus on offense was to get him the football."
Justin Hogue, Jackson's partner in the Kenai backfield, was selected to the first team offense for his role in opening holes for the Kenai ground game, as well as for his own clutch running -- Hogue averaged just 3.7 yards per carry during the season, but got the ball when the Kardinals needed one or two tough yards for a first down. Hogue scored three touchdowns for the Kardinals.
"He has the ability to line up and whip anybody across from him," Beeson said. "We needed someone we could run behind, and we knew he'd line up and whack somebody."
Tight end Ross Baldwin (seven catches for 94 yards) and guard Sepa Nicholas-Silvira round out Kenai's selections on the first team offense.
Beeson said that Baldwin's insertion into the lineup as a tight end came almost on a whim just before the first scrimmage -- but the move has paid off all season.
"One thing he does is he comes out and hits people," Beeson said.
Kenai's Dane Myers was selected to the first team offense as a tackle.
"We're just trying to get him a little meaner," Beeson said. "He's got the tools to be a great, great player."
Three Kardinals were selected as two-way all-NLC players. Jackson made the defensive squad for his efforts patrolling the Kenai secondary, Hogue was named an all-NLC interior lineman and Nicholas-Silvira was selected to the first team as an inside linebacker.
"Hogue was double-teamed all season, and other teams ran away from him," Beeson said. "Sepa is just a great kid to have. He plays hard all the time."
Beeson said he would have liked to have seen one more Kardinal -- Dominic Plasencia -- make the first team at inside linebacker.
"People asked me if I could pick between Sepa and Dominic, and I said I couldn't," Beeson said. "It's too bad we couldn't have three first team inside linebackers."
Beeson added that his Coach of the Year award really belongs to his players.
"You could be the greatest coach but never win a game, and you're not going to be recognized," Beeson said. "It's a direct result of the kids and the effort they put into it."
Ely Evanson leads the Skyview selections on the all-NLC first team. Evanson threw for 471 yards and six touchdowns for the Panthers.
"He's got a lot of potential for growth," said Skyview coach Wade Marcuson. "Hopefully, he can take this and be able to work at improving himself."
Evanson's most frequent target was Ian Leach, a first team wide receiver. Leach led the NLC with 15 catches for 296 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
"He only played that position half the season," Marcuson said. "He had 909 yards of total offense when you look at his kick returns, punt returns, running yards and receiving yards, and he scored nine touchdowns."
Skyview fullback Stryder Reilly rounds out the Panthers' all-NLC first team offense selections. Reilly carried the ball 57 times for 247 yards, and was instrumental in opening up holes for the rest of Skyview's running backs.
"I was really happy to see both Justin Hogue and Stryder selected as fullbacks," Marcuson said. "They're very similar in the way they approach the game, in their attitude and their style of play."
Chris Rice became a leader on the Skyview team and earned a spot on the first team defense as an interior lineman, and Matt Burdick joins the first team as the NLC's top punter.
"Chris is probably the only 160-pound lineman on the team. With his sheer quickness and strength, he's a tough guy to take on," Marcuson said. "Burdick never had a punt blocked all year. He was able to get the ball off quick.
"He set a goal to make himself a better person, and he kept at it all season, which I think other coaches recognized."
Shows proved how valuable he was to the Mariners' cause this season, earning first team selections on offense as a center and kicker and on defense as a defensive end and outside linebacker.
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