Thanks to AJ Hull, the Kenai Central football program is back in the pages of Sports Illustrated.
In the Nov. 23 issue, Hull appears in "Faces in the Crowd."
The segment on Hull reads: "AJ, a sophomore quarterback at Kenai Central High, passed for 147 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 71 yards and a TD to help the Kardinals to a 21-10 win over three-time defending champion Soldotna for the state small school title. Named MVP of the game, he was also all-state after passing for 26 touchdowns and leading Kenai Central to a 10-1 record."
The Kardinals are no strangers to the pages of SI. In October 2000, the entire team was featured in the magazine.
Unlike the short piece on Hull, the 2000 piece on the Kardinals read more like fiction than journalism.
The Kenai Peninsula was a place where "snow conceals gridirons eight months of the year." Football is secondary as a sport to hunting, trapping and fishing (fishing and possibly hunting I'll give you, but trapping?). And the fathers of Kenai Central football players were reported to be nearly all employed as commercial fishermen or oil and natural-gas producers.
The story did get one thing right: That Kenai Central ran little more than a simple, ground-orientated attack. Of course, Hull's agility in the backfield and pinpoint passing changed all that.
Getting in "Faces in the Crowd" is not solely an award based on achievement. After all, one could argue, why didn't senior Billy Kiefer get in SI instead of Hull? The running back was the small-schools offensive player of the year.
Or, for that matter, why not 2009 Soldotna graduate Anthony Griglione, who started for the Stars as a sophomore and never lost a varsity game?
That doesn't mean the award is not neat, and obviously getting the award takes impressive credentials. Whitney Leman, the Ninilchik girls basketball guard who won four Class 2A state titles, got in "Faces in the Crowd" in 2003 and it was something the Lemans talked about for years.
Hull deserves commendation for sticking out in a crowd and showing Sports Illustrated that Kenai has moved far beyond a simple, ground-orientated attack.
Like he has for the past two and a half seasons, Jed McGlasson took the ice Tuesday at the Soldotna Sports Center as part of the starting lineup. But instead of the words, "Kenai's own and team captain," bellowing from Announcer Dude, preceding McGlasson's entrance onto the ice, he got a subdued and uninspired, "Jed McGlasson."
McGlasson played his first game at his former home rink with the Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla since being traded last week from the Brown Bears.
Seeing McGlasson donning the red jersey of the Avs -- both teams wore alternate sweaters that will be auctioned to raise money for each program -- was a strange yet satisfying sight. The former Kenai Central standout had been a part of Kenai River's organization since its inception.
During his tenure, McGlasson experienced four coaching changes. In a league most players use as a steppingstone to the collegiate level, they rely almost exclusively on their coach to attract schools attention. That can be difficult when the person responsible for recruiting is constantly changing.
It's hard enough to be noticed playing in Alaska. And a high turnover rate of head coaches doesn't help that fact.
According to head coach Oliver David, McGlasson requested the trade to get more exposure.
I hope McGlasson receives the exposure he deserves.
David recently told me he's received several calls about McGlasson from interested schools. Besides confirming that McGlasson is a solid North American Hockey League player, the phone calls David's received indicate the strides the Brown Bears program has made in its short existence.
While the Brownies have lost some key players this season due to trades, David's been consistent in stockpiling youth on the team. Newcomers Jesse Ramsey and Raymond Stenehjem were both born in 1991, and the newest goaltender, Dainis Vasiljevs, in 1990. Throughout the flurry of trades in which the Brown Bears have recently been involved, David repeatedly said he wants young guys who want to be in Alaska. Those are two essential attributes, especially in a town that's trying to build a Junior A program.
Although the Brownies (5-23-2) are in last place in the NAHL West Division, it's arguably the toughest in the league. Out of the 19 teams in the NAHL, Wenatchee, Alaska and Fairbanks -- all in the West -- top the league. Topeka, with 39 points, is tied for third in the entire league with Fairbanks, which sits in third in the West. The Brown Bears will only improve constantly playing teams of this caliber.
Other coaches have said that in any other division, Kenai River would be a .500 squad.
It can be tough for fans to witness rebuilding, but David's on the right path for doing just that and patience is needed. With nearly four months remaining on the season, I'm sure the Brown Bears in uniform now will be much improved come March.
Jeff Helminiak and Mike Nesper work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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