After leading the Soldotna High School football team to a small-schools state championship in October, Robbie Smithwick can add another item to his growing list of accomplishments.
The senior was named Alaska's 2010-11 Gatorade Football Player of the Year on Thursday, becoming the third athlete in four years from the central Kenai Peninsula to earn the award. Soldotna grad Anthony Griglione took home the honor in 2008-09, while Kenai Central grad Bill Chimphalee won it in 2007-08.
"He put together one of the most phenomenal senior seasons I've ever seen," SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. said of Smithwick. "It was just a treat for all of us to watch him this season."
Smithwick did just about everything for the Stars, who finished 11-0 and defeated rival Kenai Central 77-42 in the small-schools state championship.
A do-it-all athlete, he played running back and outside linebacker in addition to placekicker and punter.
Despite his senior season being just his second in pads, Smithwick finished the campaign with 1,291 yards and 17 touchdowns on 68 carries, averaging nearly 19 yards per touch. He was named the Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year, ending his career as the school's fourth-leading rusher.
Smithwick also started at outside linebacker on defense, but it was his kicking ability that made him even more valuable.
With more than 30 touchbacks to his credit on kickoffs, in addition to the punting duties, he earned first-team status on the All-State squad as a kicker.
Rarely did he ever sit out a play.
"He would kick the ball off to begin the game, then we wouldn't really get to talk to him until the game was over," Brantley Jr. said. "He was everywhere."
Smithwick's success on the gridiron is impressive, if not unparalleled, given the fact he hadn't played competitive football until his junior season.
Also a basketball and soccer player, SoHi's football coaches noticed Smithwick's athleticism as soon as he stepped on the field.
But it took about a year, Brantley Jr. said, for the newcomer to develop into a confident runner.
The turning point may have been in the second game of the 2010 season, when Smithwick took a handoff against Kodiak and turned the ball upfield for a 40-yard gain.
Brantley Jr. remembers the running back breaking around the edge of the line and darting into open field. A confidence booster for Smithwick, the play also sent a statement to Kodiak -- and future opponents.
"He just took off and never stopped," Brantley Jr. said of the play, highlighting a 28-0 SoHi victory. "The rest of the season, he was phenomenal. People took notice of how he ran the football."
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