The Soldotna football program is famous for some impressive streaks — 59 straight games won, 12 straight Northern Lights Conference crowns and six straight Division II crowns.
Saturday saw a few more impressive streaks continue with the release of the Alaska Football Coaches Association Division II All-State Team. Senior Brenner Furlong was Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, senior Wendell Tuisuala was Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, and senior Jake Marcuson became the third straight Marcuson brother to earn all-state honors at tackle.
Soldotna’s other major award winner was Eric Pomerleau, who took home Assistant Coach of the Year.
Stars coach Galen Brantley Jr. said Furlong, who made the first team at fullback and outside linebacker, and Tuisaula, who made the first team at guard and inside linebacker, did not rest on their laurels after last season, with Furlong gaining more yards than he did last year.
“For us, between their junior and senior years, they did absolutely everything we asked as far as lifting, preparing and doing other sports,” Brantley Jr. said. “Then over the summer, both put in a lot of hard work. They’re two guys I expect to be playing at the next level.”
Not only did the duo put in the work, but Brantley Jr. said it’s almost a mistake to call it work.
“They love the sport,” the coach said. “They’re invested in it. That’s the difference between those two and a lot of other guys.
“They’re not guys you have to fight with. They love the whole grind, the whole experience and everything that goes with it.”
Brantley said Furlong was the perfect fullback for the SoHi system. He is the state 400-meter champion and also benches over 300 pounds, making him a constant threat to score.
“An 8- to 10-yard run for our fullback a lot of years is one Brenner can take to the house,” Brantley Jr. said. “He gave us an added dimension we didn’t have before.”
The coach said Tuisaula is so dominating on defense that there was no discussion when the award came up.
“I think he’s the best defensive player in the state at any level,” Brantley Jr. said.
While SoHi’s offense was not the unstoppable force this season it has been in the past, the defense was dominant.
“Wendell was the key to all those difficult, close victories we had,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s so physical that when he hits the running back a few times, he doesn’t want to run up in there again.”
Furlong’s work on offense and Tuisaula’s work on defense didn’t keep them from excelling on the other side of the ball.
“They’ve gotten a lot of accolades but they are pretty special people too,” Brantley Jr. said. “I know they’ll do really well when they leave Soldotna.”
The coach said Pomerleau’s award represents just how important the staff is to SoHi’s success, with assistants Phil Leck and Sarge Truesdell also standing out.
“He puts in a ton of time,” Brantley Jr. said of Pomerleau. “He’s a year-round guy. He’s in there in the summers, doing camps. The program has a fantastic staff. I’m pretty blessed.”
The Stars led the offensive first team with six selections, while no other team had more than two. Senior Brandon Crowder again made the first team at quarterback.
It’s hard to call a quarterback an unsung hero, but Brantley Jr. said Crowder did whatever the team needed, whether it was handing off, running the ball or throwing for over 700 yards and completing over 60 percent of his passes.
“The way we do it, he’s the hub of our offense with all the faking,” Brantley Jr. said. “If something is not quite right, it affects everything. He put in a lot of time and effort to have a really great career here.”
Jake Marcuson followed brothers Tyler and Kyle as all-state tackles that wore No. 55.
“It’s got to be genetics,” Brantley Jr. said.
The coach said sophomore first-team running back Aaron Faletoi falling behind a pulling Tuisaula and Marcuson made the Stars a very right-handed team.
The final senior from SoHi to make the first team is punter Cody Quelland.
Other first-teamers for the Stars are sophomore tight end Galen Brantley III, sophomore defensive back Jersey Truesdell, and junior Levi Benner and sophomore Aaron Faletoi at defensive interior line.
“We’re excited to have those quality kids to build around,” Brantley Jr. said.
Kenai Central was led by senior Zack Tuttle, who made the first team at receiver and defensive back. Tuttle led the Kenai Peninsula with 401 receiving yards, catching 14 balls for four touchdowns. The Kardinals also had senior inside linebacker Seth Kruse and senior outside linebacker Rykker Riddall on the first team.
2017 ALASKA FOOTBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION
DIVISION II ALL-STATE TEAM
Offensive Player of the Year: Brenner Furlong, Sohi
Defensive Player of the Year: Wendell Tuisaula, Sohi
Lineman of the Year: Lucas Santana, Palmer
Coach of the Year: Rod Christiansen, Palmer
Assistant Coach of the Year: Eric Pomerleau, Sohi
Quarterback: Brandon Crowder, Sohi
Running Back: Larry Cutsforth, Palmer; Aaron Faletoi, Sohi
Full Back: Brenner Furlong, Sohi
Receiver: Jamie Johnson, North Pole; Zack Tuttle, Kenai
Tight End: Galen Brantley III, Sohi
Tackle: Jacob Breazeale, North Pole; Jake Marcuson, Sohi
Guard: Lucas Santana, Palmer; Wendell Tuisaula, Sohi
Center: Derek Boord, Thunder Mountain
Outside Linebacker: Brenner Furlong, Sohi; Rykker Riddall, Kenai
Inside Linebacker: CJ Fontana, North Pole; Seth Kruse, Kenai; Wendell Tuisaula, Sohi
Defensive Back: Jeff Glynn, Palmer; Jamie Johnson, North Pole; Jersey Truesdell, Sohi; Zack Tuttle, Kenai
Interior Lineman: Levi Benner, Sohi; Aaron Faletoi, Sohi; Lucas Santana, Palmer; Puna Touteiolepo, Thunder Mountain
Punter: Shaun Walton, Kodiak
Return Specialist: Liam Van Sickle, Juneau-Douglas
Long Snapper: Ivan Williams, Thunder Mountain
Kicker: Jacob Babcock, Thunder Mountain
Utility Player: Cody Quelland, Sohi
Quarterback: Craig Borba, North Pole
Running Back: Toy Toupou, Thunder Mountain; Liam Van Sickle, Juneau-Douglas
Full Back: CJ Fontana, North Pole
Receiver: Joel Francisco, Kodiak; Kody Malouf, Ketchikan
Tight End: Bobby Cox, Thunder Mountain; Kasey Watts, Juneau-Douglas
Tackle: John Elisoff, Juneau-Douglas; Jacob White, Palmer
Guard: Jacob Blanchard, North Pole; Alex Eldemar, Thunder Mountain; Seth Kruse, Kenai
Center: Josh Smith, Kodiak
Outside Linebacker: Kirven Easton, North Pole; Steven Rosales, Thunder Mountain
Inside Linebacker: Ben Kruzich, Palmer; Alofa Sua, Thunder Mountain
Defensive Back: Isaiah Galindez, Kodiak; John Hamrick, Juneau-Douglas; Hansel Hinckle, Thunder Mountain; Jacob Tapia, Thunder Mountain
Interior Lineman: Stevie Byron, Ketchikan; John Grossl, Kenai; Josh Smith, Kodiak; Ivan Williams, Juneau Douglas
Punter: Elliot Gifford, Juneau Douglas
Return Specialist: Luke Trammell, Sohi
Long Snapper: Logan Baker, Kenai
Kicker: Jacob Babcock, Thunder Mountain
Utility Player: Cody Galletes, Juneau-Douglas