The Soldotna football team brought home a strong victory over the South Anchorage on Friday during their homecoming game at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna. The final score was 42-8.
The Stars, a Division II school, improved to 4-0 with their second victory this season over a Division I school. South falls to 0-4.
Soldotna head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said that “after kind of a mediocre performance last week, I thought our kids really stepped up and played a better game against a pretty talented opponent.”
Brantley Jr. said the Stars shored up their defense, crediting strong practice all week and a great game plan from coach Phil Leck.
The inside linebackers, Joe Whittom and Wyatt Faircloth, managed to impress Brantley Jr. with some big tackles.
“It’s probably the best game we’ve gotten out of those two,” he said.
Playing the homecoming game is usually a “massive distraction,” according to Brantley Jr. The coach said that despite that distraction, his team was able to carry over a good week of practice into the game.
The first quarter opened slowly, with the ball switching possessions several times. Wolverines started with the ball but were held and forced to punt. The Stars lost the ball on a fumble just before the goal line, resulting in a touchback.
Soldotna got the ball back and Lokeni Wong broke off a 44-yard scoring run with 1:49 left in the first quarter. Jace O’Reagan booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
“He gave us exactly what we needed, and we’re pretty happy with his development so far,” Brantley Jr. said of the sophomore Wong, who scored two touchdowns and ran five times for 73 yards.
The defense got the ball right back for Soldotna, and this time Wyatt Faircloth scored on a 1-yard run with 8:15 left in the second quarter for a 13-0 lead.
With just 51 seconds until halftime, Gehret Medcoff stormed up the middle for a 25-yard scoring run, with a two-point pass from Zac Buckbee to Wong making it 21-0 at the half.
Soldotna then scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, with O’Reagan getting the kick each time, to take total control of the game.
Faircloth had an 8-yard touchdown with 9:49 left, Aidan Gavalis caught a 64-yard pass from Buckbee with 6:30 left, and Wong scored on a 7-yard run with 3:17 left to put the game into running clock territory at 42-0.
Early in the fourth quarter, South shattered the Stars hopes for a shutout when Falealili “Fafo” Lefona scored on an 18-yard run. A two-point pass from Lefona to Kai Coleman accounted for the final score: 42-8.
Soldotna managed the strong performance even though Brayden Taylor was out this week and will be for some time. During the game against West Valley last weekend, Taylor was injured. He is the starting quarterback and also the Division II Defensive Player of the Year last season.
“I ended up tearing my ACL,” Taylor said. “Just after the first quarter.”
Alongside the ACL, Taylor also said he tore his meniscus and bruised his femur. Despite that, Taylor is chasing a return to play by the end of his senior season. A brace came in today, and he’s preparing to start physical therapy and other chiropractic treatment.
Taylor is frustrated watching from the sideline. He said he also lost his freshman year to a broken tibia. But he’s proud of the team’s performance today, saying they played really well, in line with a really good week of practice.
Despite the loss, Wolverines head coach John Lewis said he saw his team “taking so many steps forward.” Lewis said he chose a tough schedule this season, and Soldotna delivered the challenge.
“We have to find that old South fight again,” Lewis said. “Our guys are not gonna stop fighting. Period. So I’m good, I’m good to head back to Anchorage. Soldotna gave us everything that we knew they’d give us, to teach us the next step.”
Looking forward to the next games on the Wolverines’ plate — East, Juneau, Bartlett and Dimond — Lewis said “Bring them on. We are ready.”
Lewis said his offensive line came out strong, naming Rocco White, Logan Gagliardi, Chris Strawderman, Mathias Schmidt and Drake Ward as strong performers.
He also credited Ulaulo “Ulu” Tuulauulu for coming up with a defensive strategy, saying, “You don’t play an unconventional offense with a conventional defense.”
The Soldotna Stars will return to Justin Maile Field at 6 p.m. Friday to face off with the Chugiak Mustangs.
Stars 42, Wolverines 8
South 0 0 0 8 —8
Soldotna 7 14 21 0 —42
Sol — Wong 44 run (O’Reagan kick), 1:49.
Sol — Faircloth 1 run (kick failed), 8:15.
Sol — Medcoff 25 run (Wong pass from Buckbee), 0:51.
Sol — Faircloth 8 run (O’Reagan kick), 9:49.
Sol — A. Gavalis 64 pass from Buckbee (O’Reagan kick), 6:30.
Sol — Wong 7 run (O’Reagan kick), 3:17.
Sou — Lefona 18 run (Ka. Coleman pass from Lefona), 8:52.
First downs 13 6
Rushing 39-239 34-172
Passing 133 2
Comp-att-int 6-9-1 3-9-0
Return yds 8-77 7-61
Punts 0-0 6-23.0
Fumbles 1-1 4-1
Penalties 5-25 6-35
Rushing — Soldotna: Medcoff 12-81, Faircloth 8-46, Z. Buckbee 6-29, O’Reagan 3-15, Tacey 1-3, Z. Miller 1-0, Hinds 1-(-1), Michael 2-(-7). South: Bridges 9-44, Ka. Coleman 5-29, Campbell 6-27, Conception 7-27, Stahla 2-24, Lefona 5-21.
Passing — Soldotna: Buckbee 4-5-0—110, Ohnemus 2-4-1—23. South: Lefona 3-9-0—2.
Receving — Soldotna: A. Gavalis 1-64, T. Gavalis 1-24, Tacey 1-17, Faircloth 1-15, Medcoff 1-14, Michael 1-(-1). South: Vojtasek 1-3, Conception 1-0, Stahla 1-(-1).