A 2020 Soldotna High graduate class that was a key part of three Division II state titles and a 28-1 record will send four on to play college football.
Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi will play at NAIA school Dickinson State in Dickinson, North Dakota. Hudson Metcalf will play Division II football for Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction, Colorado, while Melvin Lloyd will suit up for the Gila River Hawks Junior College Football Team in the Phoenix area.
“What an awesome group of young men to go down and represent Soldotna High School at the college level,” Soldotna head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “All four have a chance to succeed in the situations they are in. We’re their biggest fans from here on out.”
Dickinson State, under head coach Pete Stanton, is an NAIA power. Stanton led the Blue Hawks to North Star Athletic Association titles and appearances in the NAIA playoffs in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. In 2018, Dickinson State made the NAIA quarterfinals.
Brantley III, the son of Galen Jr. and Stacy, leaves the Stars as one of the most accomplished three-sport athletes in the school’s history.
As a senior, he was the defensive points leader for the Stars en route to earning Defensive Player of the Year at the Division II level. He was all-state at tight end and inside linebacker in his junior and senior years, and all-state at tight end his sophomore season. Brantley III was SoHi’s leading receiver the past three years.
In hockey, Brantley III was the leading scorer for the Stars all four years, and a first-team all-North Star Conference selection for three years. He got his 80 goals and 125 points in four years despite playing defense his last two years. As a junior, Brantley Jr. said his son was Pacific District Select, one of two players in Alaska high school hockey to earn that honor that season.
In the shot put, Brantley III was second at the Class 4A meet as a junior and fourth as a sophomore before having his senior season wiped out by the new coronavirus pandemic.
Brantley Jr. said his son had put on 15 or 20 pounds of muscle since the end of his junior season. From January through March this season, Brantley III was doing 20 to 30 throws a day for six days a week. Brantley Jr., who coaches the throws at Soldotna, said his son was in a position to break Soldotna’s school record, break the Region III record and win the Class 4A state title this season.
Brantley III will compete at football and track and field at Dickinson. Stanton also is a track guy. He was the men’s and women’s head track and field coach and led the Dickinson men to national titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and runner-up finishes in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“We knew going down there he was a big supporter of track and field and he let a lot of other players do both,” Brantley Jr. said of Stanton. “That was a big selling point.”
Brantley Jr. said other schools wanted his son to do one or the other. Add in that Stacy is from North Dakota and Dickinson is surrounded by her relatives, and the school was a great fit.
With a grade-point average of 4.064 and two athletic scholarships, Brantley Jr. said his son is in great shape financially.
“He’s really worked hard for everything he’s gotten,” Brantley Jr. said. “Being the coach’s kid and all the things that go along with that is not easy.”
Brantley Jr. said his son was the only one who never missed one weight training session the summer before senior year.
“It wasn’t like I had to drag him kicking and screaming to the weight room,” Brantley Jr. said. “That made a tremendous difference for him physically.
“His work ethic is the reason he’s had as much success as he’s had.”
Dickinson also gets Faletoi, who was all-state as a sophomore, junior and senior at halfback. He also was all-state at defensive end as a sophomore and junior and inside linebacker as a senior.
Faletoi, son of Lupe Eli of Soldotna, also will wrestle at Dickinson. Dickinson wrestling is led by Justin Schlecht, who in 2016 led the Blue Hawks to an eighth place finish in the nation. Faletoi won the state title at 215 pounds as a junior and missed the state meet as a senior due to a hand injury.
Faletoi also finished sixth in the shot put in the Class 4A state meet as a junior before coronavirus canceled his senior year.
Brantley Jr. said Faletoi is an old-school football player in the mold of Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka and John Riggins — preferring to run through tackles and not elude them.
“He’s one of those players where teams are tackling him for 4 or 5 yards early in the game and 10- or 12-yards gains in the middle or end of the game because kids start making business decisions,” Brantley Jr. said.
Brantley Jr. said Faletoi could play anywhere from fullback to defensive end in college.
“He absolutely loves football — he can’t live without it,” Brantley Jr. said. “That will be important when he’s finally not the largest animal in the small animal division. Things aren’t going to go his way and he’ll have to keep his head down and work his tail off.”
Metcalf, son of Lana and Richard Metcalf of Soldotna, will play under first-year head coach Tremaine Jackson in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Brantley Jr. said Metcalf, who was all-state as linebacker as a junior and senior, had plenty of college options.
“He’s as gifted a football player as we had this year,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s easily one of the best outside linebackers I’ve ever coached. He’s able to read keys and read and react and he’s only going to get better at it.
“He has all the tools necessary to be a great college linebacker at that division.”
Brantley Jr. said Metcalf will have to work hard to get on the field for a quality team in a quality conference.
“Like Aaron and the other kids, he’s irreplaceable,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s an awesome young man with great moral character. He’ll just be missed.”
Lloyd, son of Robert Lloyd and Tamara McCoy of Kasilof, will play football, but not technically for a school. In February 2018, the Maricopa County Community College District decided to eliminate football after the 2018 season. Into the void stepped the Hohokam Junior College Athletic Conference, which had five teams in 2019.
The league has an approved list of partner junior colleges and looks to secure academic or playing opportunities for student/athletes at the university level. The teams do not represent specific schools, though.
Lloyd was Lineman of the Year at the Division II level, making first team all-state at offensive and defensive lineman.
Brantley Jr. said Lloyd is a great story. He wrestled for head wrestling coach Neldon Gardner as a sophomore, then went out for track and threw for Brantley Jr., taking fifth in the Class 4A state shot put as a sophomore.
That led to him going out for football as a junior. Brantley Jr. said Lloyd spent a lot of time at Brantley Jr.’s house in the process.
“A few years ago, I didn’t know if Melvin would graduate from high school,” Brantley Jr. said. “That’s the hard truth. The way he has developed and matured and taken control of his life with good, positive decisions, and gotten himself aligned to go to college, is truly what high school sports is all about. He’s really done a phenomenal job.
“Melvin is a good human being. I wish more people would stop and take the time to get to know him.”
Brantley Jr. said Lloyd is an enticing prospect because he has come such a long way in such a short period of time.