“We lost a lot of really good athletes — a lot of award winners,” Kodiak coach Jim Schnick said.
All-Northern Lights Conference quarterback Josh Yavorsky and linemen Leo Sega and JR Guevara graduated, while fullback Kerry Powers moved off island and center Hunter McKee is out for the season because of an injury.
Schnick hopes his offense still has enough fire power to guide Kodiak to the postseason for the third consecutive season. The Bears went 5-3 last year and lost to Kenai, 47-6, in the quarterfinals.
Schnick will look to the speedy and elusive Melvin Javier to replace Yavorksy behind center.
As a halfback, Javier, a senior, was Kodiak’s second-leading rusher last season with 533 yards. He also scored six touchdowns and earned second-team NLC honors.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Schnick said on moving Javier to quarterback. “Someone as good as Melvin, getting him the ball every play — I’m OK with that.”
Kodiak will also be without the services of Powers, who moved with his family to Colorado during the summer. As a fullback, Powers was Kodiak’s leading rusher last season with 555 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He was a workhorse, that is for sure,” Schnick said. “Kerry has been the only running back that I have had at that position, and I’m definitely going to be filling that loss — I thought I would have one more year with him. On the flip side, I have never had anybody else there, so I don’t know what anybody else’s potential is.”
Nicolas Kionisala will replace Powers at fullback, while Jay-Ar Small and Isagani Galindez will also become household names in Kodiak’s backfield this season.
Kodiak debuted a pistol offense last season and will again feature a run-heavy attack, with a few added tweaks.
“We are looking to do some things this year to maybe spread us out and open up some running lanes a little to give that fullback a little more room to run inside,” Schnick said.
Opening up holes for the running backs will be 6-foot-5, 315-pound Kordell Pillans, Jake Yavorsky, Andre Mandapat and Hunter Bigley. As of Monday, Schnick was still looking to fill right tackle.
“We got some guys who are potentially there, but they still need to prove a little bit at practice,” Schnick said.
Jemuel Mangalus, Trisan Amoda and Tyler Wietfield will all split time at wide receiver.
“We still haven’t solidified everybody yet, but we have a good idea. We have guys that are still competing,” Schnick said.
Kodiak averaged 33 points per game last season and eclipsed 50 points three times in eight games. Schnick said this year’s team has the potential to put up the same type of numbers.
“We have some athletes that are just phenomenal athletes,” he said. “We just got to keep working and getting better every day. We will be right there and be able to make some waves if we keep a positive mindset and keep working hard everyday.”
Kodiak’s defense will also fill the loss of Powers and Sega, who anchored the unit last season.
Powers was an all-conference middle linebacker, while Sega was an all-conference lineman.
The team does return Mandapat, a first-team NLC outside linebacker.
“He will be moving to the inside to play middle linebacker to try to fill that void left by Kerry,” Schnick said.
Schnick said a lot of the offensive starters will also be defensive starters.
Amoda and Yavorsky will be at defensive ends, with Pillans and Bigley plugging the inside.
The defensive backfield will consist of Javier, Small, Wietfield and Mangalus.
Last year, the defensive unit posted two shutouts and gave up 20 points per game.
The team only has a roster of 37 players, but Schnick said most of them have a great work ethic, which should carry the team throughout the season.
“We have a core group of guys who are workaholics,” Schnick said. “They are very coachable and it is a pleasure to coach them — you can tell they want to win so bad.”
Dave Owens will head the defense for the third straight season, while Schnick has four new assistant coaches on his staff in John Yavorsky, David Anderson, Connor Rogan and Tom Davis.
Contact Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.