The bad memories of last year’s season-opening loss are now a distant memory for the Soldotna Stars football program, which romped its way to a 49-6 win over the West Eagles on Friday night at West Anchorage High School in nonconference play.
The Stars pulled out a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and led 35-0 at halftime, then forced a running clock in the fourth quarter to secure the team’s 10th straight win, dating back to last year.
SoHi, a Division II school, had its 59-game state-record win streak busted last year in Week 1 with a heartbreaking 18-13 loss to West, a Division I school, on a last-second touchdown.
SoHi made sure not to let that happen again, as the Stars beat the Eagles for the third time in four years. The two teams have played each other in the season opener for four years running.
“The kids certainly were not lacking any motivation after what happened last year,” said SoHi head coach Galen Brantley Jr. “It was the only defeat our kids have tasted, so for them to come back and make a statement in this game, I’m happy. They deserve it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into each practice and workout this summer.”
Soldotna’s relentless run game had a big night with over 300 rushing yards, most of that in the first half. Brantley Jr. said the effort was a show in determination as the team pursues its eighth straight state title.
“The kids know they can’t get complacent,” he said. “They have to work their tails off all year long.”
Starting quarterback Jersey Truesdell got his senior campaign off to a hot start with four touchdown runs, including three in the first half, and a passing TD to fellow senior Galen Brantley III. Seniors Hudson Metcalf and Aaron Faletoi also scored on touchdown runs. Brantley had five catches for around 80 yards and a touchdown.
But it was the SoHi defense that pulled off a masterpiece, snagging four interceptions, including three from Medcoff.
“(Medcoff) was absolutely sensational on defense tonight,” Brantley Jr. said. “We’ve always known Wyatt’s good, but not everyone else does. He’s a kid who can play at the next level, and he often gets overlooked.”
Brantley Jr. said that holding the usually potent West offense back all night was a product of solid execution of a great game plan from assistant coaches Eric Pomerleau, Phil Leck, Sarge Truesdell, Adam Byrnes and others.
“Holding a school like West to six points, we couldn’t be happier with the defensive effort,” he said. “Credit goes to the defensive coaches … all those guys did a tremendous job of putting a game plan together and executing it.”
The Stars stopped the Eagles on their first four possessions with two punts and two interceptions, and responded with scoring drives on offense to stake out a 28-0 lead by the second quarter.
Metcalf opened the game with the first scoring play of the season, a 4-yard run up the middle just four minutes in.
Truesdell found the end zone for the first time with 5:57 left in the first quarter, pulling off a QB sneak and ripping off 36 yards to push the lead to 14-0.
Medcoff got the ball back for SoHi on the next Eagles possession with a leaping interception for a 20-yard return, setting the Stars up at the West 44-yard line with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
After West eventually began to make headway with a couple of first downs, Truesdell got in on the interception streak with a pick on SoHi’s own 10-yard line to end the first quarter.
A 4-yard scramble by Faletoi with 1:06 left in the second pushed the lead to 35.
In the second half, Brantley III made a highlight catch for 39 yards that brought the ball to the 1-yard line, and Truesdell finished it off with a run up the middle for his fourth score of the day.
Monroe 44, Seward 38, OT
The Monroe Rams held off the Seahawks Friday evening in overtime after Seward rallied from a 24-point deficit in the second half in a nonconference matchup of a pair of Division III schools.
Seward led 14-0 early before Monroe came back with a pair of touchdown scores and a 41-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead into halftime.
The Rams continued to apply the pressure with three touchdowns in the second half, pushing the lead to 38-14.
But the Seward defense began to crack down and forced Monroe into mistakes, including a fourth-down stop, a forced fumble and a blocked punt that allowed the Seahawks to cut the lead down.
Seward head coach Kelly Cinereski said his entire backfield all tallied TDs, as quarterback Tommy Cronin, Collin Mullaly, Stephen Harshman and Thomas Ooka all reached the end zone.
Cinereski said Seward tied it with three minutes left in regulation to force overtime. In overtime, Seward got the ball first but fumbled it away, giving Monroe a chance to end it. The Rams ultimately did end it on a quarterback bootleg sneak.
Monroe was also able to secure the victory with just 10 players on the field after an unsportsmanlike call led to an ejection for the already-depleted Rams roster.
Cinereski said it was impressive to see Monroe pull out the win, adding that it was a “great game to watch”.
“It’s sad that someone had to lose,” he said. “It was fun to watch. It was a nonconference game, which is OK, but if it comes down to a tie, we’d like to have the win.
“It was a great education for the guys, and for our young guys to step up and fight is huge.”
Cinereski also noted that the Monroe kicker had a big night with a 41-yard field goal.
Stars 49, Eagles 6
Soldotna 21 14 14 0 —49
West 0 0 6 0 —6
Sol — Metcalf 4 run (Truesdell kick)
Sol — Truesdell 36 run (Truesdell kick), 5:57
Sol — Truesdell 2 run (Truesdell kick), 3:37
Sol — Truesdell 10 run (Truesdell kick), 2:21
Sol — Faletoi 4 run (Truesdell kick), 1:06
Sol — Brantley 5 pass from Truesdell (Truesdell kick), 9:23
Wes — Sotoa 12 pass from McCollins (failed pass), 4:51
Sol — Truesdell 1 run (Truesdell kick), 2:08