SoHi captures 7th straight football state crown

SoHi captures 7th straight football state crown

Their season began with a nightmare, but they finished it in seventh heaven.

The Soldotna Stars capped the 2018 prep football campaign with a state record seventh straight Division II championship and 11th total in school history, beating upstart Eagle River 46-14 on a wet Saturday afternoon at Palmer’s Machetanz Field.

In a year that began with an opening-week loss to West Anchorage that snapped SoHi’s state-record 59-game win streak, the Stars ran the table the rest of the way to finish 9-1 overall and refute anyone that doubted their supremacy on the Division II level.

“It’s a testament to the hard work the kids and coaches put in,” said head coach Galen Brantley Jr. “Every single year brings a different group of kids and it has its own challenges and own personality.”

In the end, the Stars finished on top yet again while Eagle River, playing in its first state final in school history, fell short of its goal in what had already been an historically successful season for the Wolves.

“This has been four years of hard work, and I’m proud of them,” said Wolves head coach Bob Adkins. “SoHi’s a good team, and we’re pretty disappointed, but we had a good year.”

SoHi had its chances in the slippery conditions to throw away the game. A botched drive in the final four minutes of the first half saw the Stars commit four penalties and lose an opportunity to pad their 19-8 lead at halftime.

The team’s first possession of the second half failed to score points, even as SoHi drove down to Eagle River’s 3-yard line, when a pass by QB Jersey Truesdell soared wide of his receiver in the corner of the end zone, and it was also a drive that finished without junior back Aaron Faletoi on the field after he limped off with a shoulder injury.

SoHi also had a 64-yard punt return touchdown erased on a penalty in the third quarter, helping to keep things tight.

However, the Stars came up big when it mattered most. Just like the last seven years.

SoHi scored on consecutive possessions in the third and fourth quarters, then dropped the dagger with an 84-yard pick six by junior Hudson Metcalf with 7:52 left in the game as Eagle River was desperately attempting to stay close with a quick score.

“They’d been attacking the flats all day,” Metcalf said. “(Assistant coach) Sarge (Truesdell) said they were going to the flats there.”

Once he read Wolves quarterback Ryan Adkins eyes, Metcalf stepped in front of intended receiver Kobe Sherman and was off to the races down the sideline.

“I heard coach (Phil) Leck say, ‘Score it!’,” Metcalf recounted. “I know I couldn’t have done it without the team.”

The big return TD put SoHi ahead 40-8 and in total command with the minutes winding down.

Overall, SoHi outgained Eagle River 329 to 220 in offensive yards, with 268 of that coming on the ground on the rainy day. Wyatt Medcoff led the charge with 101 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Faletoi ended with 60 yards and two touchdown runs.

Eagle River only mustered 48 rushing yards but Adkins led the aerial attack with 172 yards on 8-for-20 passing, with 118 of those yards going to receiver Mason Piper. Piper broke free for a 47-yard score in the first quarter that put the Wolves ahead 8-7 after the two-point run by Adkins.

That would be a short-lived lead, however, as SoHi embarked on a 10-play possession that ended with two key plays, the first a fourth-down conversion by Faletoi on an outside edge run. The re-energized drive was capped with a 23-yard grab up the middle by Galen Brantley III from Truesdell that gave the Stars a 13-8 lead.

Truesdell finished 5 for 8 for 52 yards in his first championship game start since the 2016 finale as a freshman. Truesdell said his first full season leading the team as starting signal-caller left him feeling satisfied.

“I felt like this was my team, my huddle,” Truesdell said. “It felt very accomplished.”

Just as the Wolves rode into the title game with the intent of capping a breakthrough season — Eagle River made its first playoff appearance this year after years of losing seasons — the Stars entered with the intent of finishing a year that started with the Week 1 loss to West.

Truesdell said the team worked hard through the eight-week season to re-establish their domain.

“That loss motivated us for the entire year,” he said. “We wanted to win every game, and we were confident.”

The Wolves suffered a scare when Adkins went down with a shoulder injury late in the first half while Eagle River was driving with the ball down 19-8. Adkins missed three plays before returning for a fourth-and-ten attempt on SoHi’s 43-yard line. The QB fumbled the ball and recovered, but the Wolves were bailed out with a Soldotna penalty, giving them new life.

Saturday at Palmer

STARS 46, WOLVES 14

Eagle River 8 0 0 6 —14

Soldotna 13 6 7 20 —46

1st Quarter

Sol — Faletoi 1 run (Truesdell kick), 9:20

ER — Piper 47 pass from Adkins (Adkins run), 6:28

Sol — Brantley 23 pass from Truesdell (pass failed), 1:32

2nd Quarter

Sol — Faletoi 4 run (kick failed), 9:00

3rd Quarter

Sol — Updike 2 run (Truesdell kick), 1:23

4th Quarter

Sol — Medcoff 5 run (Truesdell kick), 11:01

Sol — Metcalf 84 interception return (Truesdell kick), 7:52

Sol — Taylor 9 pass from Johnson (run failed), 4:03

ER — Piper 53 pass from Adkins (no kick), :07

Sol ER

First downs 20 10

Rush yds 43-268 28-48

Pass yds 61 172

Total yds 329 220

Comp-att-int 6-9-0 8-21-1

Returns yds 118 118

Punts 0 3-40.0

Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-2

Penalties 9-80 9-102

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rush — Soldotna: Medcoff 14-101, Truesdell 8-54, Faletoi 9-60, Metcalf 7-51, Johnson 1-0, Updike 1-2, O’Reagan 1-(-2), Taylor 2-2. Eagle River: Hamilton 8-35, Sherman 3-17, Williams 4-2, Adkins 6-3, Cox 2-(-7), Jackson 2-0, Baker 2-(-7), Piper 1-5.

Pass — Soldotna: Truesdell 5-8-0—52, Johnson 1-1-1—9. Eagle River: Adkins 8-20-0—172, Piper 0-1-0—0.

Receiving — Soldotna: Brantley III 4-51, Taylor 1-9, Faletoi 1-1. Eagle River: Piper 4-118, Rollman 2-18, Sherman 1-33, Baker 1-3.

Soldotna head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. celebrates with the rest of the Stars Saturday after defeating Eagle River 46-14 in the Division II state football championship at Palmer High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. celebrates with the rest of the Stars Saturday after defeating Eagle River 46-14 in the Division II state football championship at Palmer High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna junior Aaron Faletoi (8) finds room to run against Eagle River Saturday in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna junior Aaron Faletoi (8) finds room to run against Eagle River Saturday in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River receiver Mason Piper hauls in a catch as Soldotna defensive back Cy Updike attempts to block it Saturday in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River receiver Mason Piper hauls in a catch as Soldotna defensive back Cy Updike attempts to block it Saturday in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River quarterback Ryan Adkins attempts to escape the grasp of Soldotna lineman Zach Zeigler (36) Saturday in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River quarterback Ryan Adkins attempts to escape the grasp of Soldotna lineman Zach Zeigler (36) Saturday in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna quarterback Jersey Truesdell lobs a pass to a receiver Saturday against Eagle River in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna quarterback Jersey Truesdell lobs a pass to a receiver Saturday against Eagle River in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna junior Galen Brantley III grabs a pass Saturday against Eagle River in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna junior Galen Brantley III grabs a pass Saturday against Eagle River in the Division II state football championship game at Machetanz Field in Palmer. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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