SoHi team members with the championship trophy.  Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi team members with the championship trophy. Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi routs North Pole, pulls off 3-peat

The Soldotna Stars started fast and didn’t let up Saturday afternoon at Dimond’s Alumni Field in Anchorage, cruising to a 57-28 victory over North Pole that gave them a third-straight medium-schools football state championship and seventh in nine years.

The victory also tied the Soldotna school and state record of 29 straight wins, leaving the Stars with an opportunity to break it outright in next year’s season opener.

“I’m just pleased to see this group of seniors go out on top,” said SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. “My heart’s full today.”

SoHi senior quarterback Brooks Furlong threw a touchdown pass with 57 passing yards to lead the aerial attack. Furlong also had three rushing touchdowns on the strength of 76 yards.

“Not really,” Furlong said when asked if the achievement had sunk in yet. “It is amazing to go out on top as a senior. It’s a great feeling.”

Furlong’s teammate Ty Fenton, also a senior, scored a pair of touchdowns and racked up 146 yards on the ground to lead the formidable Soldotna running game.

“It’s just crazy, I don’t even know if I’ve accepted it yet,” Fenton said about the day. “It’s sweet just to keep the legacy going. We’re going to remember this the rest of our lives.”

Together, the Stars rushed 58 times for 400 yards and seven touchdowns, using an amazing 10 different players to carry the ball.

“This group has meant a lot to us, they’ve suffered some loss together,” Brantley Jr. said. “The way they stuck together through the difficult times really shows character.”

In a first half that went nearly two hours and featured 74 total offensive plays between the two teams, Soldotna did everything it could to keep North Pole’s ferocious offense at bay and off the field.

“They blitzed a lot, they were bringing the heat,” Furlong said. “We did a good job of picking that up and were able to move the ball.”

On the opening drive of the game, SoHi went 59 yards on seven plays that resulted in a 2-yard plunge by Bailey Blumentritt before three minutes were up.

North Pole also made mistakes that proved to be very costly. On the Patriots’ first possession, sophomore quarterback Andrew “Dew” Rogers went looking for teammate Shane Hursh through the air but instead found Fenton, who brought down the early interception.

From there, it took Fenton one play to go 30 yards for the touchdown on a swing play.

On the very next offensive play for North Pole, DeAundre Campbell fumbled the ball, leaving Sage Hill to recover on the Patriots 18-yard line. Immediately after that, Furlong took a well-designed bootleg to the right, scoring his first touchdown of the day to put SoHi up 23-0 with most of the first quarter still to play.

“Honestly, we weren’t feeling that comfortable at that point just yet,” Furlong said. “We knew they had Dew Rogers and Campbell and a couple of stud athletes, so we knew we had to keep them off the field. When we got the ball, we had to score points.”

On its next two possessions, North Pole finally managed to move the ball with success, but the first drive ended on a fourth-down turnover on the SoHi 10-yard line, while the second ended with a Patriots touchdown pass from Rogers to Matt Rodgers, who caught the ball and ran 9 yards to the pilon on the first play of the second quarter.

But, like clockwork, the Stars answered with a 76-yard, nine-play drive that ended with a 3-yard score by Jared Chavez, leaving SoHi with a 37-7 lead with over eight minutes remaining in the first half.

After scoring for the second time on the day, North Pole attempted an onside kick to keep the Stars off the field. It worked, but Rogers tossed his second pick of the day only 16 yards from the SoHi end zone. This time, it was Drew Gibbs who caught the tipped pass, running it back 55 yards and into North Pole territory.

Trailing 44-14 at halftime, North Pole was in desperate need of momentum, and managed to get some with a scoring drive on its opening possession of the second half. It took the Patriots 12 plays and almost three minutes to go 80 yards, ending in a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Rogers.

But, since this is Soldotna they were playing, a return touchdown was in the script. The Stars responded with a 67-yard, 11-play drive that ended on a Fenton touchdown run, bumping SoHi’s lead to 51-21. Soldotna scored again after successfully converting on an onside kick, its second of the game.

“It was just a chance to even out the number of possessions,” Brantley Jr. said. “We knew they were gonna do it the rest of the game, so we took a chance. We didn’t wanna hand the ball over to those kids again to see them run the ball over the field again.”

Regarding the dynasty that the Stars seem to be riding, Brantley Jr. remained humble.

“No one really expects to go on some kind of streak, those happen on accident,” Brantley Jr. said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to play well with the larger schools we’ve matched up with the last three years. But, you need a lot of luck.”

 

Stars 57, Patriots 28

Soldotna 30 14 13 0 —57

North Pole 0 14 7 7 —28

1st Quarter

Sol — Blumentritt 2 run (Gibbs run), 9:16

Sol — Fenton 30 run (Gibbs run), 7:48

Sol — Furlong 18 run (Jones kick), 7:33

Sol — Furlong 1 run (Jones kick), 2:33

2nd Quarter

NP — Rodgers 9 pass from Rogers (Wollmann kick), 11:51

Sol — Chavez 3 run (Jones kick), 8:43

NP — Skipps 4 run (Wollmann kick), 7:19

Sol — Fenton 14 pass from Furlong (Jones kick), 2:49

3rd Quarter

NP — Rogers 1 run (Wollmann kick), 9:08

Sol — Fenton 2 run (Jones kick), 4:14

Sol — Furlong 1 run (kick failed), :51

4th Quarter

NP — Rogers 1 run (Wollmann kick), 9:53

 

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing — Soldotna: Fenton 11-146, Furlong 9-76, Gibbs 4-32, Chavez 14-71, Blumentritt 11-42, Prior 3-7, Bre. Furlong 2-3, Urban 1-6, Winter 2-13, Jones 1-4. North Pole: Rogers 18-101, L. Skipps 6-26, Campbell 9-46, Wollmann 2-38, S. Skipps 4-9.

Passing — Soldotna: Furlong 4-8-0—57. North Pole: Rogers 10-18-2—179.

Receiving — Soldotna: Blumentritt 2-38, Fenton 1-14, Gibbs 1-5. North Pole: Wollmann 4-105, Hursh 4-65, Rodgers 1-9.

SoHi's Jared Chavez signals the three-peat.  Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi’s Jared Chavez signals the three-peat. Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi's Drew Gibbs (28) returns an interception as teammates Jared Chavez (8) blocks and Brooks Furlong (11) help out.  Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi’s Drew Gibbs (28) returns an interception as teammates Jared Chavez (8) blocks and Brooks Furlong (11) help out. Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi's Ty Fenton (7) is wrapped up by North Pole's Curtis McNeal.  Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi’s Ty Fenton (7) is wrapped up by North Pole’s Curtis McNeal. Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi head coach Galen Brantley Jr. is doused by Brooks Furlong (11) as the game winds down.  Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

SoHi head coach Galen Brantley Jr. is doused by Brooks Furlong (11) as the game winds down. Photo for the Clarion by Michael Dinneen

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