Three Juneau-Douglas High School football players earned first-team honors when the Cook Inlet Football Conference announced its all-CIFC teams on Friday.
The three Crimson Bears accounted for four first-team spots, with senior Chris Connally being honored at both wide receiver and defensive back. The others named to the first-team were senior defensive interior lineman Jason "Train" Kaeser and senior linebacker Justin Rose.
"It's pretty close to what we expected," Juneau coach Reilly Richey said. "Chris was one of only three players to get picked on both sides, offense and defense, joining (Chugiak's) Riley Fitt-Chappell and (Dimond's) Chris Kuper. I thought that was a good honor."
Dimond running back Kenard Walker, who was the state's only 1,000-yard running back this season with 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns on 128 carries, was voted the CIFC's offensive player of the year. Bartlett defensive end Tui Alailefaleula, who is being recruited by several major NCAA Division I schools and is ranked 14th nationally at his position by Rivals100.com, was named the CIFC's defensive player of the year. Kuper was voted the lineman of the year, and Bartlett's Rickey Rollins was voted the utility player of the year.
Dimond coach Duncan Shackelford was voted the head coach of the year and Mark Whitehurst of Dimond was voted assistant coach of the year after leading the Lynx to an undefeated 8-0 record through the regular season.
Juneau (4-3 overall, 3-3 CIFC) placed three people on the second-team all-CIFC squad with junior Brett Fairchild honored at quarterback, senior Brian Fairchild at linebacker and senior Henry Wyatt at offensive tackle. Earning honorable mention recognition were Rose at tight end, junior Jake Dutton at wide receiver and junior Bret Russell at center.
"We'd hoped to get Brett (on the first team) at quarterback," Richey said. "Brett's stats were pretty similar to Tom Marriage's (of East Anchorage, who was also first-team at kicker and punter), and he probably didn't have as much time to throw. But with us not making the playoffs, it hurt. He's got another year and he's all-conference to us.
"We'd hoped to get Brian Fairchild on the first-team, too, but it's hard to get two guys from the same school in at the same position," Richey added. "I thought Brian was as good as some of the guys who made it."
For Juneau, Connally was a first-team all-state selection at kick returner last season so his all-CIFC selections this year weren't a big surprise. Even Kaeser was a second-team all-CIFC pick last season, but Richey said Rose "came out of nowhere" to earn his honors. Rose was injured as a freshman and sophomore and didn't see much action as a junior before starting this year.
"I was actually pretty surprised because I hadn't played linebacker much before," Rose said. "I wasn't playing much last year. I never saw too much action. But I went to a couple of camps this summer and really worked hard. It looks like it paid off."
Richey said Kaeser was an easy selection at his position, but Kaeser said he was surprised when he found out about the honor Saturday morning. He said the Crimson Bears were hurt by their struggles on the road. Juneau has a nine-game winning streak at home over the last two seasons, but this year the Crimson Bears lost all three of their road games in Anchorage, which is where most of the CIFC coaches really get to see Juneau play.