Soldotna running back Austin Schrader (20) rumbled up the middle for a gain Friday evening against Palmer at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna.

Soldotna running back Austin Schrader (20) rumbled up the middle for a gain Friday evening against Palmer at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna.

SoHi topples Palmer for No. 44 of The Streak

Having withstood the physical tests of bigger competition and coming out with a perfect record, the streaking Soldotna Stars approached Friday night’s Northern Lights Conference clash against Palmer with high anticipation.

The Stars held on to win their first NLC game of the season 42-21 over the Moose at Justin Maile Field, just as the final rays of dying sunlight were casting their last glows.

The win moved SoHi to the top of the conference standings with a 1-0 record, while Palmer dropped to 1-1. SoHi is now 5-0 this year and extended its state-record win streak to 44 in a row.

Like Soldotna, the Moose have had to fight through a tough opening stanza to the 2016 season, which began with losses to East, Bartlett and Colony, all big schools. Last week, Palmer opened its conference schedule with a 35-18 win over Kodiak.

However, despite their 1-4 record in 2016, the Moose tested the Stars on both sides of the ball.

“They’re a well-coached team and coach (Rod) Christiansen has a history of upsetting teams and going deep in the playoffs,” said Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. “I think they can make a lot of noise here in October.”

Brenner Furlong led the SoHi charge with 110 rushing yards, while Austin Schrader and Jace Urban each scored twice. Schrader finished with 97 yards and Urban with 88.

SoHi outgained Palmer 357 yards to 282, and while SoHi has breezed through the bulk of their conference schedule the past few seasons, Palmer gave the Stars a legit fight Friday night.

The Moose intercepted the Stars twice in the first half and also forced them to punt twice, including on the opening drive of the game.

“They were pretty good,” said Soldotna senior tight end Andy West. “They were watching a lot of film, they were following me around out there.”

West had several near misses go through his hands, but caught the biggest throw of the night when he intercepted Palmer quarterback Clayton Southwick late in the game, effectively sealing the victory. In addition to his crucial defensive play, West also caught a six-yard scoring strike from quarterback Brandon Crowder early in the fourth quarter, putting SoHi up 35-14 at the time. Crowder finished 2 for 10 with 26 yards. Both completions went into the endzone.

Soldotna rolled to 331 team rushing yards on 45 carries, while Palmer spread the field with a talented core of receivers that had the towering 6-foot-8 Southwick slinging the rock. Southwick finished 10 for 21 with 131 yards and two touchdowns, and also found success on his feet, carrying the ball for 49 rushing yards.

In the end, Southwick, leading a Moose contingent that hadn’t turned the ball over once, finally found trouble in the form of West. Southwick rolled out to his right to escape pressure from the Stars line, but lobbed a pass that was picked out of the air by the 6-4 West with 2:20 to play, all but sealing the SoHi win.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my (defensive) line pressuring the quarterback,” West said. “I was just there to pick it up.”

The Palmer defense gave SoHi trouble all night. After stopping SoHi early, Palmer made a gutsy call to convert a fourth down deep in their own territory, but were stopped short on the outside, giving SoHi the ball at the Moose 19-yard line. A 9-yard Austin Schrader run opened the scoring for SoHi.

“They have athletes, there’s no question about it,” Brantley Jr. said. 

Brantley Jr. said after the previous week’s win over East — a 22-21 thriller that wasn’t decided until the final minute — SoHi was simply trying to recover from the bruising battle against the colossal Thunderbirds line, which features several 300-pound linemen. 

“I expected to come out a little flat after East,” he said. “But that doesn’t take anything away from Palmer, they showed up to play. They made it a game for a long time.”

Palmer coach Rod Christiansen, who coached against Soldotna back when Brantley Jr. was a player for the Stars, said the early decision to go for it was one of several mistakes the Moose made.

“Every game there’s five or six plays that (determine the outcome), and you don’t know which ones until it’s over,” Christiansen said. “We tried to go for it early, and we game them a short field.”

Christiansen’s most recent visit to Justin Maile Field resulted in a win, coincidentally the last loss for the record-breaking Stars in Aug. 2012, back when the field featured natural grass, and Christiansen said every matchup with Brantley Jr. is a special one.

“I think it was more fun on dirt,” he said with a laugh.

After SoHi’s first touchdown of the evening, Palmer drove to the SoHi 13-yard line but turned the ball over on downs when a pass to the flats from Southwick to junior Matt Daniels did not reach the line of scrimmage. Daniels caught seven passes for 99 yards, and had an interception on defense.

SoHi gave the ball right back when a Crowder throw was tipped up into the air and brought down by Daniels, giving the Moose fresh life. 

Again, Palmer couldn’t convert on fourth down, but like deja vu, it didn’t take long for the Moose to get it back. A flea-flicker that finished with a pass by Urban was picked off by Jared Oviok at midfield. From there, it took Palmer nine plays — including a big 24-yard scamper by Jeff Glynn that put the Moose in the red zone — to score on a pass from Southwick to Nick Johnson, tying the game at 7 apiece.

However, SoHi responded emphatically with two unanswered touchdown drives, starting with a 65-yard series that was was punctuated with a 36-yard rumble by Furlong that brought SoHi to the red zone. From there, Schrader punched it up the gut for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:33 remaining in the half.

After a Palmer punt, SoHi scored again with 49 second left when Crowder connected with Urban on a long throw across the middle, giving the Stars a 21-7 halftime lead.

In the second half, the two teams traded touchdowns on four straight possessions. Southwick’s 9-yard air strike to Oviok with 7:10 left in the game cut SoHi’s lead to 35-21, and on Soldotna’s ensuing drive, the Stars stalled with a punt at midfield.

Starting from their own 19, the Moose began a serious drive that made it as far as the SoHi 38 before Southwick was sacked. A holding penalty backed the Moose up further, and Southwick ended Palmer’s chances with his pick to West.


Stars 42, Moose 21

Palmer 0 7 7 7 —21  

Soldotna 7 14 7 14 —42

1st Quarter

Sol — Schrader 9 run (Jones kick), 5:18

2nd Quarter

Pal — Johnson 6 pass from Southwick (Cutsforth kick), 5:06

Sol — Schrader 9 run (Jones kick), 3:33

Sol — Urban 20 pass from Crowder (Jones kick), :49

3rd Quarter

Sol — Crowder 9 run (Jones kick), 7:11

Pal — DeBach 1 run (Cutsforth kick), 3:06

4th Quarter

Sol — West 6 pass from Crowder (Jones kick), 9:49

Pal — Oviok 9 pass from Southwick (Cutsforth kick), 7:10

Sol — Urban 23 run (Wells kick), :59


  Sol  Pal

First Downs 16 9   

Rushing yds 45-331 39-151    

Pass yds 26 131  

Comp-Att-Int 2-11-2 10-21-1

Return yds 4-24 5-65

Punts 2-27.5 2-35 

Fumbles 0-0 0-0 

Penalties 5-42 5-40   



Rushing — Soldotna: Furlong 13-110, Schrader 16-97, Urban 6-88, Crowder 7-26, Lefoa 3-10. Palmer: Glynn 9-49, Southwick 12-49, Cutsforth 8-35, Farris 1-10, DeBach 8-6, Hale 1-2.

Passing — Soldotna: Crowder 2-10—26-2. Urban 0-1—0-0. Palmer: Southwick 10-21—131-2.

Receiving — Soldotna: Urban 1-20, West 1-6. Palmer: Daniels 7-99, Hale 1-17, Oviok 1-9, Johnson 1-6.

Soldotna Stars quarterback Brandon Crowder unleashes a throw against the Palmer Moose in a Friday night matchup at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna

Soldotna Stars quarterback Brandon Crowder unleashes a throw against the Palmer Moose in a Friday night matchup at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna

More in Sports

Soldotna junior Brayden Taylor rushes the ball down the field during the Division II state football championship game against Lathrop at Service High School in Anchorage on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Lathrop snaps SoHi’s run of state titles

The Soldotna Stars football team fell to Fairbanks’ Lathrop High School in… Continue reading

Soldotna’s Gehret Medcoff runs for a touchdown against Wasilla on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Stars dominate major NLC football awards

Soldotna, which went undefeated in the Northern Lights Conference this season, won… Continue reading

SoHi wrestlers take 4th at Houston Altercation

The Soldotna wrestling team finished fourth at the season-opening Houston Altercation Tournament… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Emma Beck attacks against Nikiski's Rylee Ellis on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Volleyball roundup: Kenai tops Nikiski; Wasilla sweeps SoHi

The senior civics project of Valerie Villegas was a smashing success Friday… Continue reading

Morgan Aldridge leads riders down a hill at the start of Week 3 of the Soldotna Cycle Series on Thursday, July 18, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Chainwreck Cyclocross Series holds final race of season

The Chainwreck Cyclocross Series wrapped up with the fifth race Thursday at… Continue reading

Nikiski's Rylee Ellis attacks against Soldotna's Ashlee Anderson on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Volleyball roundup: SoHi, Kenai pull out wins

Staff report Host Soldotna celebrated its senior night with a 3-1 nonconference… Continue reading

Brock Wilson and Brayden Taylor lead Soldotna onto Justin Maile Field for a Division II semifinal against North Pole on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi football to play for 9th straight state title

Eight straight state titles, and 12 since 2006. An 18-game postseason winning… Continue reading

MJ Hendren pictured kayaking at Hidden Lake next to a large rock exposure. (Photo provided)
Refuge Notebook: Geology of the Kenai … it rocks!

One thing that never ceases to amaze me about living in Alaska… Continue reading

The pedicure in question has seen many miles of hiking and walking since it was first painted on five months ago. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: A perfect pedicure

There is just the smallest sliver of light pink nail polish left… Continue reading

Most Read