Junior Drew Gibbs scored twice and ran for 96 yards to lead the Soldotna Stars to a 33-0 nonconference win over Palmer on Friday night at Machetanz Field.
Gibbs helped Soldotna (2-0) extend its state-leading winning streak to 22 games with a second-straight dominant win over a large-schools team, this time over a semifinalist from last season. The last team to beat the Stars was Palmer. The Moose topped Soldotna 27-7 on Aug. 11, 2012.
SoHi started the scoring by taking advantage of a first-quarter Palmer mistake. Junior quarterback Justin Roth threw a ball intended for his receiver that never passed the line of scrimmage. As most of the players stood waiting for the whistle, Soldotna cornerback Dylan Ackerman scooped up the ball and scampered all the way to the Palmer 19-yard line.
The Stars would score on the next play on a pass by Brooks Furlong to Trevor Walden. Soldotna’s only pass for a score came with 2 minutes, 54 seconds, left in the first quarter.
Palmer began the second quarter charging into the red zone behind the steady running attack of Chase Ferris and Wayne Hershman. Roth threw his first interception of the game, but the Moose defense was able to take the ball back two plays later, as Hershman struck the ball carrier and Graydon Powell fell on the ball.
Furlong was able to put the Stars up 13-0 when he sneakily ran the ball in himself from 5 yards out. After a blocked point-after attempt, Soldotna went into halftime up by two scores.
Soldotna head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said he was pleased with his quarterback.
“I thought Brooks managed the game well tonight. He’s going to make corrections and only get better for us,” Brantley Jr. said.
Furlong carried the momentum into the second half, sparking another Soldotna scoring drive by intercepting Roth’s pass while diving across the middle of the field.
“That was a great play,” Brantley Jr. said.
The Stars pitched the shutout by bending but never breaking on defense. SoHi allowed 182 yards on the ground and 56 through the air.
That was more than enough to back up a typically dominant evening rushing the ball. The Stars rushed 36 times for 312 yards, with Gibbs rushing 10 times for 96 yards and Ty Fenton toting the ball 10 times for 93 yards.
SoHi stretched the lead to 28-0 in the third quarter on scoring runs from Fenton and Gibbs, then a Gibbs’ 13-yard scamper capped the scoring in the fourth quarter.
Ferris racked up 109 yards rushing on 23 carries to lead the Moose, running through Soldotna defenders, around would-be tacklers and using his speed to gain extra yards. Ferris leads a group of young talent in which Palmer head coach Rod Christiansen sees potential.
“As a team we’ve got to go out there and compete every play. There’s a lot of great efforts going on out there,” said Christiansen.
Ferris broke off gains of 14 and 18 yards during the game’s first drive. He led the Moose running attack throughout the whole game. Roth was able to find success later in the game, completing 4 of 6 passes in the fourth quarter, including a 32-yard deep ball to Darion Angol.
“It’s a group that can be successful. They need to believe and follow and get after it,” said Christiansen.
The Moose lost to a 2013 state champion for the second week in a row, after falling to the large-schools winner West Anchorage last week, the medium-schools titleholder Soldotna was able to get the best of the Moose on their home field on Friday.
Though they shared a conference for many years and met once each season, the recent reclassifications makes this game a rarity, though both schools boast proud and successful programs built around their success in the running game. This matchup was no different than classic Palmer-Soldotna Northern Lights Conference games.
“It was a dogfight,” Brantley said.
Stars 33, Moose 0
Soldotna 7 6 14 6 — 33
Palmer 0 0 0 0 — 0
SOL — Walden 14 pass from Furlong (Ackerman kick), 2:54.
SOL — Furlong 5 run (kick failed), 1:18.
SOL — Fenton 22 run (kick blocked), 10:39.
SOL —Gibbs 1 run (Fowler pass from Furlong), 4:54.
SOL — Gibbs 13 run (pass failed), 7:09.
First downs 16 12
Rushes-yards 36-312 46-182
Passing yards 61 56
Return yards 0 0
Passes 4-9-0 6-12-2
Punts 0-0.0 2-28.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 2-30 5-35
RUSHING — Soldotna: Gibbs 10- 96, Fenton 10-93, Chavez 1-58, Blumentritt 5-41, Furlong 10-24. Palmer: Ferris 23-109, Hershman 9-33, Roth 6-23, Daniels 3-18, Angol 2-0, Layton 3-(-1).
PASSING — Soldotna: Furlong 4-9-0–61. Palmer: roth 6-12-2–56.