The visiting Soldotna football team defeated Eagle River 27-14 on Saturday to take a crucial step toward a 15th straight Northern Lights Conference title.
Both teams came into the matchup undefeated in conference, but Eagle River leaves 2-1 in the league and 4-1 overall, while the Stars are 3-0 in the league and 4-1 overall.
Wasilla notched a 21-7 victory over Chugiak this week as the Warriors moved to 1-1 in the league. SoHi can clinch the conference title by defeating the Warriors at 5 p.m. at Justin Maile Field on Friday.
“Eagle River is a really good football team,” Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. said after winning on the Wolves’ senior night. “That was not comfortable.”
The coach said it took a bit of everything to get the win.
“This for us was the consummate team win,” Brantley Jr. said. “We had to make plays in all three phases of the game. We made big stops on defense, got needed breaks on special teams and our offense did just enough to complement the other two phases.”
The game got off to an odd start, with SoHi kicking off and recovering that kickoff at the Eagle River 21-yard line. SoHi then turned the ball over on its first play, forced Eagle River to punt, then blocked that punt.
On the first play after the blocked punt, Gehret Medcoff ran for a 45-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
Eagle River tied it with 11:32 left in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by Cashiez Reaves, but Medcoff scored again, this time from 3 yards, for a 14-7 lead with 6:53 until halftime.
After that, SoHi would have to rely on its defense, because the offense would not score again until late in the game.
“Give credit to Eric Pomerleau,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s probably the best defensive coordinator in the state. The kids were just prepared. They were run fitting and flying places they needed to be. They have some talented players and guys were breaking tackles and making it difficult.”
With 54 seconds until halftime, Brayden Taylor returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and 21-7 lead.
“He had two really big plays,” Brantley Jr. said. “He blocked a punt to set up the first touchdown, and he scored on the other one.”
After stopping Soldotna to open the second half, Eagle River went on a long drive but turned the ball over on downs at the Soldotna 6. The Wolves got the ball back and cut the gap to 21-14 with 7:43 left in the game on a 5-yard run by Reaves.
Brantley Jr. said the offense then got going when it mattered.
“I think it shows the resiliency in the kids,” he said. “They dug down, fought and got the tough yards to keep going down the field.”
Wayne Mellon scored on a 1-yard run with 3:02 left for a 27-14 lead.
Cody Uribe-Koivisto then clinched the game with an interception with 1:25 to play. Brantley Jr. also gave credit to Dylan Dahlgren for a great game blocking at tight end and tackling at defensive end.