In their usual pound-the-rock manner, the Soldotna Stars football team pulled out a dominant 62-18 nonconference victory Friday night over the West Valley Wolfpack, with the exception of one small twist.
The team debuted new rule stating that any player that scores must first hug an offensive lineman.
“It all starts up front,” stated junior Hudson Metcalf, who notched two first-half touchdown runs to cap a 76-yard night. “Those are the guys that help get us in the endzone. They’re a big part of the offense.”
In a battle of the top two ranked teams in the weekly Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network poll, the No. 1 and previously unbeaten Wolfpack (3-1) and No. 2 Stars (3-1) were primed for a Friday night showdown, but the drama never materialized, thanks to the usual stubborn SoHi run game that pushed its way to 433 team yards on 48 carries.
Soldotna led 22-0 after one quarter and staked out a 30-0 lead in the second before the Wolfpack finally got the board.
In addition to Metcalf’s two-score night, junior quarterback Jersey Truesdell threw three touchdown passes (two to Galen Brantley III) for 93 yards and ran for another, and Wyatt Medcoff scored twice on a run and a catch to finish with 77 ground yards.
Brantley III added a second touchdown in the third quarter with a 33-yard catch from Truesdell.
Truesdell proved to be most dangerous on his feet, gashing the West Valley defense for 136 yards rushing. Also, teammate Aaron Faletoi finished with 80 yards and a touchdown.
But in true “Big team, little me” fashion, the offensive stars laid credit on the front line.
“Nothing works without them,” Truesdell said. “We’re able to score because of them … we’re never satisfied.”
Using a tradition born from Texas Longhorns football coach Tom Herman, SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. stressed that each player that scored was to credit a lineman. The Stars followed through on all eight touchdowns scored Friday with a nod to the offensive line, finding the first lineman they could find and giving him a hug or a pat on the back to show his appreciation.
“In our building, with the offense we run, the front seven are the most important,” Brantley Jr. said. “If our backs don’t recognize who’s opening those holes, they don’t get the ball.”
Herman’s philosophy at Texas is simple in that “the essence of this game is to move another human being against his will, where he doesn’t want to go”.
In the offensive Wing-T system that the Stars run, the O-line is critical in precise blocking and opening holes, so Brantley Jr. has made sure to recognize the line.
The players getting nods included senior Levi Benner, senior Brennan Werner, senior Cody Nye, junior Trenton Walden and junior Lucas Kline, with Brantley III and junior Zach Hanson as tight ends.
Brantley Jr. said he was pleased the the offensive execution, although pointed out several miscues that will need to be tightened up.
“We dodged a couple bullets today,” he said. “I’m pretty pleased with the product out of the backfield.”
West Valley head coach Kyle Allison said that after a “bad week” of practice, the Wolfpack came out unprepared against a hungry SoHi team looking to reclaim its status as top team in the state.
“The atmosphere here and the solid team that SoHi is,” Allison said. “We hope it’s a reality check.”
Starting QB Maurice Maiden tossed a touchdown pass with an interception for 92 yards, before backup Shaun Conwell took over in the second half, adding a touchdown pass of his own. The two signal-callers combined to hit 9 of 18 targets for 154 yards.
Avery Weston caught four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Isaiah Warner led the Wolfpack’s ground game with 63 of West Valley’s 127 team yards.
It took just five plays in 72 seconds for SoHi to reach the endzone following the opening kickoff. The Stars broke off 80 yards in chunks to score on a 17-yard Metcalf scramble for the first points of the night, with Metcalf adding a two-point catch from Truesdell.
SoHi forced West Valley into a three-and-out punt, then drove down the field again, going 70 yards in seven plays to score on a three-yard dash by Truesdell for a 14-0 lead. The possession included a key 28-yard catch by Brantley III.
Another three-and-out punt by the Wolfpack left SoHi with the ball again. The third drive of the day had a few mistakes that SoHi got lucky with. A tipped pass by Brantley III led to an interception by West Valley’s Tyrell Johnson, but the play was called back on a roughing-the-passer call. SoHi then fumbled the next snap, but deftly recovered to keep the drive going.
Ultimately, the nine-play drive ended with a 13-yard rumble into the endzone by Faletoi, and the ensuing two-point pass to Metcalf put SoHi up 22-0.
An 11-yard run by Metcalf sandwiched an interception by Medcoff early in the second quarter, who read Maiden’s eyes perfectly for the pick.
Metcalf also notched a fumble recovery late in the second quarter.
Leading 46-6 at halftime, West Valley was to receive the third quarter kickoff, but promptly threw it away with a fumble, allowing SoHi to score just seven seconds into the second half on a fumble recovery by Brantley III.
STARS 62, WOLFPACK 18
Stars 22 24 16 0 —62
Wolfpack 0 6 6 6 —18
Sol — Metcalf 17 run (Metcalf pass from Truesdell), 10:48
Sol — Truesdell 3 run (pass failed), 6:21
Sol — Faletoi 13 run (Metcalf pass from Truesdell), 2:34
Sol — Metcalf 11 run (Truesdell run), 8:22
WV — Weston 38 pass from Maiden (kick failed), 4:48
Sol — Medcoff 23 run (Brantley III pass from Truesdell), 3:21
Sol — Medcoff 15 pass from Truesdell (Faletoi run), 1:29
Sol — Brantley III fumble recovery (Faletoi run), 11:53
Sol — Brantley III 33 pass from Truesdell (O’Reagan run), 6:09
WV — Campbell 51 pass from Conwell (pass failed), 4:21
WV — Warner 20 run (pass failed), 7:27
First Downs 22 8
Rushing yds 48-433 28-127
Pass yds 93 154
Comp-Att-Int 4-8-1 9-18-1
Return yds 3-42 3-72
Punts 1-38.0 5-36.6
Fumbles 2-1 2-2
Penalties 4-45 6-60
Rushing — Soldotna: Truesdell 11-136, Faletoi 10-80, Medcoff 7-77, Metcalf 6-76, O’Reagan 4-35, Taylor 3-10, Escott 2-9, T. Johnson 3-9, Bond 2-1. West Valley: Warner 7-63, Damario 8-46, Maiden 9-26, Conwell 4-(-8).
Passing — Soldotna: Truesdell 4-7-2—93, T. Johnson 0-1-0—0. West Valley: Maiden 6-12-1—92, Conwell 3-6-1—62.