High School Sports

Seward High’s run to Alaska’s first 9-man football championship was the culmination of a long building process

Tyler Mallory has been the head coach for the Seward High School football team for the past three years after serving as an assistant coach for four years. This past Saturday night, his team made history twice.

With their 42-0 shutout victory over Nikiski, the Seahawks capped their undefeated season by capturing Seward High’s first state football championship — and the first-ever state title in 9-man football awarded in Alaska.

Seward and Nikiski were two of five teams that were permitted to form their own conference last December to begin playing a modified version of the game starting this fall.

[9-man football is coming to Alaska, offering a competitive alternative for smaller schools]

The Seahawks haven’t been perennial powers and have been in the “building phase for a few years,” according to Mallory. In 2020, they played traditional 11-man football with a team of just 13 players and have “slowly been growing” the program over the past three years since he took the helm.

“Me and the other coaches have been finding kids, and the kids who have played have told their friends to come play,” Mallory said. “It’s been a process of building a team from where it was to where it needs to be.”

His players have “bought into the culture” of having higher expectations for themselves both on and off the field.


“This year it finally culminated all together,” Mallory said. “We were finally a little upperclassmen-heavy with five seniors and eight juniors on the team, which is a good place to be for us.”

Mallory said the older kids who had played football for the past three years put in a lot of time in both the weight room and the film room.

This year’s roster, at 21 players, was nearly double the size of the 2020 team, and they had even more players last year — 27 — before making the switch to 9-man.

“Based on population, 20-30 is where we should be and that’s a good number to be at, especially for 9-man,” Mallory said.

Catalyst of success for the perfect season

The Seahawks had a very stingy defense during their title run, having only given up 70 points all season and notching a pair of shutouts.

“We had some really solid kids there and we put up an average of 47 points per game,” Mallory said

On offense, senior Kupono Albino rushed for more than 1,000 yards and had 19 touchdowns as a running back, and as a middle linebacker, he recorded 44 total tackles, four forced fumbles and a touchdown.

Senior Gideon Schrock was the lead blocker for Albino most of the time from his fullback spot, and as a defensive end on the other side of the ball he had 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss.

“Just a kid that was super hard to block and has a motor that never stops,” Mallory said of Schrock. “In the state championship, he made a play where they got a big run off and he chased the running back down from across the field and tackled him. I don’t know many defensive ends in the state that can do that.”

The Seahawks’ overwhelming victory over Nikiski on Saturday at Colony High for the title marked the third time they beat the Bulldogs this season, which is a far cry from how one-sided the rivalry had been for years.

Mallory said the teams are rivals, and prior to this season, Seward had only beaten Nikiski once in his years with the team.

“It was always hard to beat Nikiski, and this year the kids bought into it and those first two games we played them, we actually were down in the first quarter or first half,” Mallory said. “The kids battled back from adversity, which was just huge and something we talked about all year.”

In the third game, the Seahawks wanted to make a statement and leave not a shred of doubt as to who the superior team was, from start to finish.

“They came out fired up and ready to go play under the lights,” Mallory said. “We left it all on the field in that last game.”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.