With a 51-6 rout of Northern Lights Conference opponent Homer on Saturday, the Soldotna Stars football team can breathe easier after clinching a spot in the medium-schools state playoffs.
Not that they needed the relief.
Saturday’s victory over the Mariners put SoHi (2-0 NLC, 5-0 overall) into the state playoffs for a ninth consecutive year, and with games against large-schools opponent West Valley and conference rival Kenai Central in the next two weeks, the Stars will be tuned up and ready to roll by mid-October.
The win also gave Soldotna its 25th consecutive victory, dating back to August 2012 against Palmer.
Junior running back Drew Gibbs led Soldotna with 100 rushing yards on just five carries, tallying three offensive touchdowns as well. Overall, SoHi racked up 319 ground yards, while Homer struggled with 46.
The Stars wasted no time against the Mariners, scoring a touchdown on their first four drives of the game.
After obtaining good field position on a big return by Tim Duke, Soldotna quarterback Brooks Furlong handed off to Gibbs, who scrambled 35 yards for the touchdown only 30 seconds into the game.
Gibbs added two more scores from 40 yards and 5 yards out in the first quarter, and a receiving touchdown by Duke resulted in a 41-0 lead for the Stars after one quarter of action.
Bailey Jones nailed a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter to give SoHi a 44-0 lead at halftime.
Jace Urban scored as well, adding a 2-yard run in the third quarter.
The Mariners did accomplish one thing that the four previous SoHi opponents could not — score points.
Homer quarterback Sheldon Hutt connected with Josh Fisk on a 68-yard touchdown pass to score with 1:16 left in the game. The ensuing two-point play failed. The touchdown was the first scoring play on Soldotna since week 1 against Eagle River.
Hutt ended up passing for 132 yards on nine completions on 20 attempts. Fisk caught six passes for 100 receiving yards, and added 36 rushing yards as well.
Stars 51, Mariners 6
Soldotna 41 3 7 0 —51
Homer 0 0 0 6 —6
Sol — Gibbs 35 run (Jones kick), 11:30
Sol — Gibbs 40 run (Ackerman kick), 8:46
Sol — Duke 38 pass from Furlong (Jones kick), 7:58
Sol — Duke 5 fumble recovery (Jones kick), 5:38
Sol — Gibbs 5 run (Jones kick), 2:02
Sol — Gibbs 1 fumble recovery (kick missed), 1:43
Sol — Jones 27 FG, 6:58
Sol — Urban 2 run (Jones kick), 5:58
Hom — Fisk 68 pass from Hutt (run failed), 1:16