Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect Soldotna scored on all 10 possessions Saturday.
On a perfect autumn day — azure sky, short-sleeve temperatures, glowing yellows, the works — the Soldotna football team’s offense was, well, perfect.
The Stars scored on all 10 possessions to swamp rival Kenai Central 72-24 on Saturday at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna. The host school scored the second-most points in the history of the rivalry, which now stands at 29-16 in favor of the Stars with SoHi on an eight-game winning streak. Coach Galen Brantley Jr. also improved to 14-2 against his greatest rival.
Soldotna (3-0, 7-1) clinched the top spot in the Northern Lights Conference for the 13th straight time and 24th time overall. Kenai saw its chances at the playoffs evaporate and finishes 1-2 and 3-5. Eagle River, at 2-1 in the league, is the second seed out of the conference.
Because Palmer is the host facility, the Stars travel to face the Moose, the No. 2 seed out of the Railbelt, Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Every year, Kenai is a big rivalry game,” said SoHi senior Levi Benner, who was honored along with Cy Updike, Ethan Gavalis, Brennan Werner and Cody Nye for senior day. “We came out of it OK. We had a few rough spots, so we’ve got some things to work on for next week.”
Most of those rough spots came on defense, where Kenai was able to rush 43 times for 303 yards. On offense, Soldotna piled up 450 yards on 47 carries and another 121 yards through the air.
Quarterback Jersey Truesdell orchestrated the attack, rushing for 83 yards and three touchdowns, while going 6 for 7 for 121 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
After the game, the junior quarterback distributed the credit as deftly as he had distributed the football, saying his coaches and teammates put him in a great position to succeed.
Truesdell reserved special praise for fellow junior Wyatt Medcoff.
The Kardinals came in as underdogs still with a shot at the playoffs. The last things Soldotna wanted Kenai to have was hope, and after Kenai had two illegal procedure penalties on its first three plays, Medcoff picked off Kenai quarterback Connor Felchle at the Kenai 40-yard line.
“That’s one thing we preached, that we can’t have mental mistakes against a team like SoHi,” said Kenai Central coach Travis Akana, whose team had 11 penalties. “It has to be 100 percent from whistle to whistle.”
Six plays later Medcoff was crashing into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 8:24 left in the first quarter. The Stars were on their way to taking a 28-0 lead.
“That was huge,” Truesdell said. “He doesn’t really have a nickname, but playmaker would be my nickname for him. He does something that wows you every game.”
For example, Truesdell said Kenai junior Titus Riddall was bowling over SoHi defenders in rushing for 171 yards and a touchdown before sitting out the second half injured. But on one of Medcoff’s carries, Truesdell said the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Medcoff gave the team a boost by getting the best of a collision with Riddall.
Medcoff finished with 196 yards rushing, plus two rushing touchdowns.
With Hudson Metcalf adding receiving and rushing touchdowns, Zach Zeigler adding a receiving touchdown, and Updike and Brock Wilson adding scoring runs, the Stars were able to light up the scoreboard despite the absence of running back Aaron Faletoi and tight end Galen Brantley III.
“I think it shows how explosive our backfield is,” Truesdell said. “Without arguably our best runner and blocker, we can plug in other people and still be good due to execution and focus.”
The Kardinals were able to find some holes in the Soldotna defense, which also received an interception from Zach Hanson deep in Soldotna territory. Tucker Vann picked up where Riddall left off in the second half, piling up 101 yards and a touchdown. Felchle also had a rushing score.
Akana said the Kenai coaching staff saw some weaknesses to the outside of the Soldotna defense and changed up the offense a bit to exploit those weaknesses.
“We weren’t playing them the best way we could have,” Benner said. “It’s nothing we can’t fix next week before Palmer with focus and time in the film room.”
Notes: Official Randy Sparks was briefly recognized at halftime. Sparks is finishing his 22nd year officiating on the Kenai Peninsula. He has two playoff games left off the peninsula, but Saturday was his last game on the peninsula.
Stars 72, Kardinals 24
Kenai 0 8 8 8 — 24
Soldotna 14 20 30 8 — 72
Sol — Medcoff 8 run (Truesdell kick), 8:24.
Sol — Truesdell 42 run (Truesdell kick), 3:48.
Sol — Truesdell 1 run (run failed), 9:24.
Sol — Truesdell 1 run (Updike run), 1:36.
Ken — Riddall 8 run (Burnett run), 1:10.
Sol — Metcalf 7 pass from Truesdell (kick failed), 0:21.
Sol — Metcalf 16 run (Medcoff pass from Truesdell), 11:05.
Sol — Medcoff 11 run (run failed), 7:36.
Ken — Vann 11 run (Vann run), 6:06.
Sol — Ziegler 31 pass from Truesdell (Metcalf run), 3:56.
Sol — Updike 15 run (Updike pass from Truesdell), 1:54.
Ken — Felchle 2 run (Vann run), 10:25.
Sol — Wilson 7 run (Sorhus run), 3:26.
First downs 15 24
Rushes-yards 43-303 47-450
Passing yards 24 121
Comp-att-int 4-9-2 6-7-0
Punts-avg 2-27.5 0-0
Fumbles 1-0 0-0
Penalties 11-94 6-57
Rushing — Kenai: Riddall 18-171, Vann 14-101, Burnett 1-19, Sylvester 3-15, Anderson 2-8, Felchle 3-(-11). Soldotna: Medcoff 16-196, Truesdell 10-83, Updike 6-52, Metcalf 7-43, Sorhus 2-23, Jaime 1-15, Wilson 2-15, C. Johnson 1-12, Escott 2-11.
Passing — Kenai: Felchle 3-6-2—17, Daniels 1-2-0—7, Burnett 0-1-0—0. Soldotna: Truesdell: 6-7-0—121.