Park earns league MVP honors
December 5, 2013
Even in the world of 8-man football, Jacob Park wasn't the biggest player around this season at either running back or linebacker for the Coleville Wolves.
The 5-foot-7, 145 pound senior loomed large on the field for the Wolves on their way to a 9-1 record and Western Division IV championship, and in the process, was honored as the league's Most Valuable Player.
Overall, six Coleville players earned first-team all-league recognition and Will Sandy was named Coach of the Year. The list of first-team selections included quarterback Seth Huhta, wide receiver Nestor Gutierrez, offensive guard Matt Algeo, defensive back Miguel Saldivar, linebacker Ricky Gieser and punter Joel Gomez.
Wide receiver Miguel Saldivar, who scored touchdowns on 12 of his 19 receptions this season, and tight end Ricky Gieser, who caught game-changing touchdown passes in back-to-back wins against Virginia City and Mineral County, were both second-team selections.
Linebacker Joel Gomez and defensive end Ashton Mitchell were second-team picks and defensive end Jack Peters earned honorable mention recognition.
The season was special for the Wolves, who ended their 2012 season in a three-way tie for first-place in the West, only to miss the playoffs entirely after falling short in the tie-breaker breakdown. This season, the Wolves won the league championship outright — thanks to back-to-back wins, 50-43 over Virginia City and 52-34 over Mineral County — and advanced to the state semifinals before losing to six-time state champion Pahranagat Valley (now riding a nation-best 69-game win streak).
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"I think this was a great year for our team being able to get so far in the playoffs," Park said. "I'm very proud of what we accomplished."
Park, a first-team all-league performer last season, rushed for 1,290 yards (9.15-yard average) and 18 touchdowns and wound up with 2,822 career yards rushing and 30 TDs. Park finished the season with 1,945 all-purpose yards, 25 touchdowns (four on returns) and scored 158 points overall.
Defensively, he ranked third on the team with 99 tackles from his linebacker position, including three sacks. He also had one interception and two fumble recoveries.
"I didn't set any high expectations," Park said of his statistics. "I just wanted to put 100 percent on every play."
The Park family is well known in the local sports community since Jacob's father, David Park, was an accomplished wrestler and football player for Douglas High School in the 1980s (three-time Northern 3A zone wrestling champion and state runner-up 128-pounder as a senior in 1985).
While Park may not have been the biggest player around, the same could be said of Coleville's team. Algeo, a senior lineman, stands 5-8, 155 (he also had a rushing touchdown); Gieser, a sophomore who saw extensive action at nose guard, is 5-10, 165; Saldivar, a senior, is 5-10, 150. Peters (5-10, 220 pounds) was the biggest player on the active roster after preseason injuries knocked out two potential starting linemen (Josh Disbro and Matt Clark, in addition to Peters missing the first month).
"We were a little worried at the beginning of the year when we had all those injuries," Park said. "But as time went on, we definitely began to feel more comfortable playing together and more confident. We just knew we had enough to get it done."
Huhta was 81-for-141 in the passing department (.574), covering 1,647 yards (20.3-yard average), 35 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Huhta also rushed for 430 yards and 8 touchdowns. Huhta wound up with 3,333 career passing yards and 71 TDs.
Gutierrez caught 34 passes for 668 yards and 14 touchdowns. For his career, Gutierrez had 65 receptions, 1,377 yards and 37 TDs.
Gutierrez and Saldivar also played vital roles for Coleville's running game with their downfield blocking.
"The linemen, and receivers with their downfield blocking, made my job a lot easier," Park said.
Gomez had a team-high three interceptions, two of which came in crucial situations in wins against Mineral County and Carlin. The junior averaged 38.23 yards on 22 punts, the longest a 60-yarder, and six that pinned the opposition inside the 20.