Thanks to the weather, high school football starts earlier in Alaska and so it ends earlier.
The nation’s first state football championships of the 2015 season were won Saturday in Anchorage in games featuring four of the state’s most impressive dynasties.
For Soldotna, the win was extra emotional as Drew Gibbs returned to make an appearance in his final high school game. Gibbs torn an ACL in the first game, ending his season. But the coaches wanted to honor a player who has given so much to the successful program. Gibbs dressed for the state title team and went out for the PAT on the final touchdown. Soldotna took a knee to make sure Gibbs was not hit on the play.
On Twitter, Gibbs said, “Never been more happy in my life. Something I will cherish for the rest of my life. And so proud of my boys in blue to get that 4th ring.”
Gibbs did not know the coaches had planned to attempt to get him into the game:
“There were a lot of tears up and down our sideline, knowing what he’s meant to us,” coach Galen Brantley Jr. told the Anchorage Daily News.
“We never said a word to him because we wanted it to be a surprise if we had the chance to actually get him on the field. His father actually called and asked me if Drew could dress out for this last game. We took it back to our staff and bounced it around, and thought what an awesome opportunity it would be to include him.”
Soldotna has now played in 12 of the 16 state title games since Alaska went to multiple classifications and won eight. This is the fifth time Soldotna and Kenai have met in the title game.
Nikiski also has had state title success, making its fifth consecutive appearance in the state title game with titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Nikiski, another Peninsula team, has advanced to the small-school title game every year since 2011, winning it all in 2011 and 2013. Three running backs each posted more than 100 yards to fuel the victory.