An old adage holds that big things come in small packages. Big things apparently come from small schools, as well.
Soldotna senior Anthony Griglione was named the 2008-09 Gatorade Alaska Football Player of the Year. Griglione is the third player from the small-schools division to win the award since the division was created in 2000-01. Griglione joins Kenai Central's Bill Chimphalee, who won last year, and Nikiski's David Holloway, who won in 2001-02.
"I think that you don't have to be from a big school to be a great player," Soldotna football coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. "Look at some of the great ones, like Jerry Rice and Walter Payton.
"Rashan Salaam won the Heisman and he played eight-man football in high school. It just shows you can go to a small school and be recognized as a great athlete."
Griglione leaves Soldotna with the career and single-season rushing records at the school. This season, he set that single-season mark by rushing for 1,702 yards and 25 touchdowns on 137 carries. He also had 14 receptions for 302 yards and five touchdowns.
The 6-foot, 195-pound running back's heroics led Soldotna (10-0) to its third consecutive small-schools title and its second consecutive undefeated season.
The Stars have won 29 straight games to tie a state record. That winning streak started when Griglione was inserted at quarterback in his sophomore season, meaning the senior never lost a game at the varsity level.
While Griglione earned notoriety for switching from quarterback to running back this season and still ripping off a big year, Brantley said that Griglione's position change on defense was even more impressive.
Griglione switched from cornerback to outside linebacker and recorded 43 tackles (23 solo) with two sacks and two interceptions.
"We played him on the wide side of the field all year," Brantley said. "He did a tremendous job of keeping contain and forcing them to run between the tackles."
Brantley said Griglione has a great mix of attributes that allowed him to get the award.
"I think first and foremost he's a great competitor," the coach said. "He hates to lose. He may run over his mother on the kickoff if she gets in the way.
"He's also been blessed with a general athleticism. He's one of those young men that if you put a pingpong paddle in his hands and he's never played, he'd look fantastic."
The Gatorade award also recognizes academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field. Griglione has a 3.71 grade-point average, has volunteered in the school tutoring program, helped organize athletic department fundraisers and has traveled to Mexico as part of a service mission for his church.
"He's does a tremendous job in the classroom," Brantley said. "That's definitely going to help him in the recruiting process."
Griglione is still undecided on a college destination. He joins Josh Coleman (1995-96) and Joe Roderick (1988-89) as players from Soldotna to claim the Gatorade award.
"It's a tremendous honor for Anthony and our program as well," Brantley said. "It really is like someone from your program winning the Heisman. It really capped of just a phenomenal career by an individual at SoHi."
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