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Prep Football: Reigning player of the year Jack Nash returns for playoffs; plus team capsules for all 8 Division I teams

by | Oct 5, 2023 | Cover Story, Football

Colony’s Jack Nash. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Jack’s back, just in time for the playoffs.

Reigning Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year Jack Nash of Colony will return to the field Friday night when he leads the Knights against Bartlett in the first round of the ASAA Division I state playoffs.

Nash has been out since Week 4 when he sprained the MCL in his right knee. He eased back into practice last week before strapping on his chin strap and shoulder pads this week.

“It was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,’” Nash said. “I am very excited to be back on the field.”

The Knights are excited too, although, to their credit, they went 3-1 in Nash’s absence on the strength of defense and special teams along with backup quarterback Marley Fakatoumafi and substitute signal caller Trevor Jamison, a wide receiver who filled in one game and rushed for two TDs to highlight a 19-6 victory over Juneau.

They were good without Nash, but they are so much better with him under center.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder was the centerpiece on last year’s state championship squad that beat Juneau 14-7 in the First National Bowl thanks to his 10-yard scoring run with 17 seconds left.

A run-pass option quarterback, Nash has accumulated 3,411 yards and produced 47 total touchdowns in 15 games.

He has played in just four games this year but in that short time became one of the few players in the state to record a touchdown trifecta by passing for a TD, catching a TD and running for a TD.

Nash said his knee feels fine, but you never know until you get hit in a game.

“I can run when I need to, like, it doesn’t hurt to run,” he said. “It feels a little different but nothing major.”

Nash has averaged 9.4 yards on 183 carries over the last two seasons. However, he admits he isn’t sure how much desire he will have to abandon the pocket Friday.

“I’m only going to run when I have to. If it’s there, I’ll take it,” he said. “I’m definitely gonna try to slide and get out of bounds as much as I can just to be safe.”

He might be playing possum. Thing is, though, he would need only a few key runs to be effective because he’s got arm and ability to pick a part a secondary with the passing game.

Colony’s Jack Nash escapes pressure from South’s Aaron Concepcion. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

He threw for 1,305 yards in 11 games last season and had racked up 384 this year before his injury. His top receivers are Jamison (21 receptions, 334 yards, 7 TDs) and Ridge Spencer (17-253-1).

Even though Nash missed half the season, he still attended practice, participated in film study and worked on timing routes with his receivers.

“It wasn’t like I was just sitting on the couch,” he said.

With his rhythm intact and two weeks of reps under his belt, Nash feels good about airing it out.

“I definitely plan on throwing the ball a little bit more,” he said. “I still got my same receivers. We changed up the slots a little bit but I’m liking my weapons right now.”

WEST EAGLES

Seed: #1 (6-1 CIC)
Record: 7-1
Coach: Tim Davis
Players to watch: Quarterback Azariah Atonio has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the last two games and leads D1 passers with 1,858 yards. Halfback Davis Iloilo leads all D1 players with 11 rushing TDs and needs 124 yards to reach the 1,000-yard benchmark. Christian Faletoi is an active linebacker with five sacks, 49 tackles and five interceptions, including a pick six.
Extra point: The Eagles average 47.3 points per game and are 7-0 against Alaska competition with their only loss on the field coming in a 33-26 setback to Aiea in Hawaii.

EAST THUNDERBIRDS

Seed: #2 (6-1 CIC)
Record: 6-2
Coach: Jeff Trotter
Players to watch: Saumani Atiifale is a freight train whether he’s carrying the ball or tackling. He emerged as the lead running back late in the regular season and has collected 586 yards and five TDs on the season. Quarterback Austin Johnson has passed for 827 yards and 16 TDs – 12 of them going to wide receiver Brandon Young. Young leads D1 receivers with 35 receptions and a dozen scores.
Extra point: With 77 career wins, Trotter ranks No. 1 in East history and seventh all-time in the CIC, two behind Bob Swatosch of Bartlett.

COLONY KNIGHTS

Seed: #3 (4-3 CIC)
Record: 5-3
Coach: Robbie Nash
Players to watch: Hard-hitting linemen Reese Rodriguez and Quilan Meehl anchor a defense that allowed just 9 points a game over a three-game winning streak to end the regular season. Rodriguez leads D1 defensive players with 89 tackles (12.6 per game) and six sacks. Meehl is third in tackles (69) and tied for second in sacks (5).
Extra point: Kicker Johnny Figgins leads the state with seven field goals – including a school record 41-yarder in Week 5 and a state record-tying three in Week 8 – and last week blasted a 62-yard punt. That’s gettin’ Figgy with it.

SERVICE COUGARS

Seed: #4 (4-3 CIC)
Record: 4-4
Coach: Kahlil Bolling
Players to watch: Quarterback Jonathon Tautua leads D1 passers with 23 TDs and ranks second with 1,599 yards. Top receivers are Caleb Wahlman (30-669-9) and Chris Thompson (26-435-8). Running back Jayden Schmidlkofer (133-574-1) has come on strong in the second half of the season with 100+ yards in three of his last four games. On defense, Carson Gamez is averaging 9.4 tackles per game while PJ Levao has been good for 9.3 tackles.
Extra point: Wahlman has recorded 100+ receiving yards in four games, keyed by his 176 vs. Colony and his 130-yard, 3-TD effort vs. Juneau. Wahlman also ranks No. 2 in D1 with 85 tackles.

DIMOND LYNX

Seed: #5 (4-3 CIC)
Record: 5-3
Coach: Brian Yim
Players to watch: Quarterback Carson Wingate has picked it up toward the end of the season, lifting his completion percentage from .419 in his first three CIC games to .549 in the final two. He has thrown for 886 yards and seven TDs; of his 10 interceptions, six of them came against Service in a 28-14 Week 5 loss. Top pass catchers are Josiah James (28-377-2), Alex Borke (21-365-3) and Javonte Walls (21-319-4).
Extra point: Dimond is looking for its first playoff win since 2015 when the Lynx beat Colony 34-26.

BARTLETT GOLDEN BEARS

Seed: #6 (2-5 CIC)
Record: 2-6
Coach: Chance Matsuoka
Players to watch: Bartlett has long been ‘Running Back High’ and this year is no different behind a stable of workhorse backs led by Makisi Poleo (72-689-89), who is coming off a 190-yard, 3-TD gem to end the regular season. Other yard bakers include Lokahi Kanohokula (80-672-4) and Manu Satele (57-483-4).
Extra point: Andre Jameson is a game changer. The playmaker had an 82-yard punt return last week and earlier this season against Colony scored on a 64-yard run and 96-yard kickoff return.

SOUTH WOLVERINES

Seed: #7 (2-5 CIC)
Record: 3-5
Coach: John Lewis
Players to watch: Quarterback Cole Yarrington surpassed the 1,000-yard benchmark for the season after leading the Wolverines to a 46-0 victory in the regular-season finale at Juneau. Running back Aaron Concepcion and receivers Landon Drumm and Falealili Lefano round out the offense. The defense is led by Brock Skinner and Rylin Sanderson in addition to Lefano in the secondary.
Extra point: With 84 career wins, Lewis ranks No. 1 in South history and fifth all-time in the CIC, five behind Duncan Shackelford who coached 22 years at Dimond and Chugiak.

JUNEAU HUSKIES

Seed: #8 (0-7 CIC)
Record: 1-7
Coach: Rich Sjoroos
Players to watch: Jayden Johnson is the most explosive player in the state. He finds the end zone every 4.9 touches and has amassed 12 TDs and 935 yards – 498 receiving and 437 rushing. A one-man wrecking crew, he has furnished eight TDs of 50 yards or longer. Quarterback Noah Ault (34%-579-7) and running back Hayden Aube (143-478-6) round out the offense.
Extra point: A three-time Alaska Coach of the Year, Sjoroos has been on staff seven times when Juneau played for a state title, ranging from 2003 to 2022. He served as offensive coordinator when the team won in 2005 and 2007. He was head coach between 2009 and 2013 before taking time off and coming back in 2019. In all that time, this is his first losing season. But the postseason presents new life.

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