Mike Nesper

Service’s defense stopped Wasilla twice in the waning minutes Saturday to earn a 14-6, non-conference win in the first football game played on the Cougars’ new turf field. After scoring on the first drive of the game, Service reached the end zone late in the fourth quarter when Zyrelle Jones rolled to his right and connected on a 3-yard strike to Emetrius McLeod. The Cougars looked poised to run out the clock when they forced a turnover on downs in four straight plays, giving them possession with two minutes to go. But Service running back Denzel Hogan fumbled on the first play of the drive and Wasilla recovered on its own 38. Enter Dominik Norman. The sophomore linebacker sacked Wasilla quarterback Dylan Simons for a 3-yard loss and two plays later supplied heavy pressure to force an...Mike Nesper
PALMER -- Colony took advantage of East’s mistakes Friday to earn a 23-13 non-conference win on the opening night of the high school football season. The Knights scored 10 points off turnovers, including what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. After Jordan Nero recovered an East fumble, Colony responded with a 12-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Tucker Looney capped the drive when he hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass from Colony quarterback Steven Bilafer to put the Knights ahead 14-7 with 3:40 left in the third quarter. Bilafer found a wide-open Looney down the left sideline on fourth-and-13. The touchdown pass marked the second time on the drive that Colony converted on fourth down. Earlier, it was Bilafer scrambling for a 12-yard gain on a fake punt. Taking risks is part Colony...Mike Nesper
A familiar face is returning to Bartlett’s sideline for the upcoming high school football season. After a two-year hiatus, John Jessen is back coaching the Golden Bears varsity program. Jessen and 2004 Bartlett grad Daniel Esparza will share the head coaching duties. “It’s a pretty overwhelming job for one person,” Jessen said at a recent practice. Esparza took over for his former coach after Jessen resigned following the 2011 season. In 16 seasons, Jessen is the winningest football coach in Bartlett history – he guided the Golden Bears to 80 wins. He’s spent the past two years coaching Bartlett’s C team to consecutive undefeated seasons. “This isn’t about me coming back,” Jessen said. “It’s about us working together.” Senior Deionte Love said practices are more intense now that Jessen...Mike Nesper
Kirsten Kolb used Saturday’s Alaska 10-K Classic as preparation for upcoming out-of-state marathons. For Evan Gaynor, the race was a great reason to visit Alaska. Anchorage’s Kolb and Gaynor of Ohio ran to victory, both pulling away late in the 6.2-mile race. Kolb, 39, finished in 38 minutes, 33 seconds, to lead a women’s field of 382. Gaynor, 26, showcased his speed, topping a men’s field of 230 in 30:34. “It’s one of my better road times,” Gaynor said. A marathoner, Kolb said her victory in the shorter race was a surprise. “This is my speed work day,” she said. Kolb is preparing for three marathons before the year’s end -- in Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina. That will bring her total to 30 states in which she’s run a marathon, something Kolb has been doing since 2007. Kolb said...Mike Nesper
Prior to the American Legion state tournament, Wasilla coach Boone Thompson described South Post 4 as “the toughest eight seed you’ll see in a long time.” He was right. South won four straight games, including a 6-0 championship victory Thursday over Dimond Post 21 at Mulcahy Stadium, to claim its third state title and first since 2009. It was the first shutout in the championship game since 1982. The win earned South a trip to the Aug. 7-11 Northwest Regional tournament in Eugene, Oregon. South outscored its opponents 35-7 and allowed one run in its final three games. “We caught fire and we didn’t get put out,” said Nick Jensen, who was named the tournament’s top pitcher after posting a 0.00 earned-run average with five strikeouts in eight innings. Four of Jensen’s strikeouts came...Mike Nesper
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South Post 4 entered the American Legion Alaska state tournament with the worst league record of eight teams vying for the title. After a dominating performance Tuesday afternoon at Mulcahy Stadium, South now owns the best record in the tournament and will play in the championship game Thursday as...
Mike Nesper
South Post 4 entered the American Legion state tournament with the worst league record of eight teams vying for the title. After a dominating performance Tuesday at Mulcahy Stadium, South now owns the best record in the tournament and will play in the championship game Thursday as the only undefeated team left. In the winners bracket semifinal Tuesday, South invoked the mercy rule with a 14-1 win over Dimond Post 21. In the early game, Juneau Post 25 eliminated defending champion Chugiak Post 33 with a 14-9 victory. Dimond and Juneau meet Wednesday with the winner advancing to the finals. Juneau thought its season ended with a 2-1 loss to top-seeded Wasilla on Monday. But the Road Warriors had to forfeit the game for using an ineligible player. The player, who was not identified, broke...Mike Nesper
Knowing the trail benefits those who attempt to tackle the grueling 24-mile Crow Pass Crossing. After ascending 2,000 feet over the first four miles from the trailhead near Girdwood, racers descend into the valley, making their way toward the finish line at the Eagle River Nature Center. In the valley, the trail is fraught with overgrown vegetation, which hides a racer’s feet as well as loose rocks and roots waiting for unsuspecting victims. Even veterans typically take a few spills each year. That’s what made Christy Marvin’s performance Saturday all the more impressive. She torched the women’s field, winning her first Crow Pass race by more than 23 minutes. It was a day for rookies. Along with Marvin, two of the top three men’s finishers were also first-timers. Marvin finished in 3...Mike Nesper
South Post 4 barely made the American Legion state tournament, clinching the eighth and final spot with a win over Kodiak in the regular-season finale. That’s all South wanted to do, make the tournament, said catcher Alec Valdez. Seeding doesn’t matter. South made that axiom reality with an 11-6 win over top-seeded Wasilla Post 35 on Friday at Mulcahy Stadium. Rankings proved meaningless for every team Friday – all four lower seeds pulled off upsets and advanced to Sunday’s winners bracket. Among the teams that fell into the losers bracket were defending champion Chugiak Post 33. It lost to sixth-seeded Dimond Post 21, which plated six runs in the fourth inning en route to a 7-5 win. Seventh-seeded Juneau Post 25 earned a 13-8 win over Service Post 28, the second-ranked team in the...Mike Nesper
American Legion baseball had a few changes this season. Four AA teams -- Kodiak, Ketchikan, Palmer and a second Fairbanks squad -- were added. And a new format debuted -- the league broke into two, eight-team divisions. Last year, Juneau fielded a team for the first time in more than a decade and Kodiak played at the junior varsity A level. Postseason rules also changed this season. The top three teams from each division and two wild card teams make the state tournament, which starts Friday at Mulcahy Stadium. Previously, every team made the playoffs. That means the double-elimination tournament is even tougher for teams hoping to finish as the best in Alaska. This year, every team has a winning record -- unlike in the past when lower seeds were sometimes well below .500. “It’s a talent-...Mike Nesper