Signing day was in full force Wednesday at Soldotna High School, as five football players put pen to paper and committed to college teams.
The Stars held a joint celebration Wednesday morning at SoHi, as Drew Gibbs, Trevor Walden, Dalton Best, Dylan Simons and Kristian Palaniuk made their commitments official. Gibbs, who signed with Division II Northern State University (South Dakota), and Walden, who signed with NAIA school College of Idaho, had already made verbal commitments.
Best announced his commitment with NAIA school Montana State University-Northern, while Simons and Palaniuk both signed with Ridgewater College, a junior college located in Willmar, Minnesota.
SoHi head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. said the signing ceremony held Wednesday morning at SoHi gave the opportunity for coaches and parents to celebrate the occasion of their players and sons taking their education to the next level.
“We couldn’t be prouder and more excited for them,” Brantley Jr. said. “It’s a pretty proud moment for me and the other coaches. It validates the hard work that the young men have put in.”
Best, the reigning Class 4A state wrestling heavyweight champion, has been an anchor on the SoHi offensive and defensive lines throughout much of the Stars state-record 39-game win streak that began in 2012.
“He’s allowed us to be competitive with the large schools,” Brantley Jr. said.
Montana State competes in the Frontier Conference, the same conference where Walden will play.
Best, who turned down several other offers, will be working on a Diesel Technology degree, something that Brantley Jr. said is a perfect fit for the mechanically inclined senior.
Simons, who moved to Soldotna from Wasilla for his senior year, led SoHi at quarterback in 2015 with 379 passing yards and seven touchdown passes. Simons is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback that displays a lot of physical attributes, Brantley Jr. said, and it allowed him to play the safety position on defense for the Stars as well.
“He wasn’t afraid to hit somebody,” Brantley Jr. said. “I think they’re going to like him.”
Palaniuk also made the move from Wasilla to Soldotna last year, and led all Kenai Peninsula medium-schools teams with 773 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Brantley Jr. said the transition for Palaniuk from Wasilla — where the senior hardly got time playing in the Warriors spread offense — to Soldotna’s brutal running game was nearly seamless.
“I think the coaches in Minnesota liked what they saw on tape,” Brantley Jr. said. “The sky’s the limit for him.”
Both will be joining 2014 Soldotna graduate Tyler Howell, who won two state titles with the Stars as a wide receiver.