By CAMILLE BOTELLO
The Soldotna Stars football team overpowered the Palmer Moose to win Friday’s homecoming game 46-27 at Justin Maile Field.
Soldotna moves to 2-0 in the Northern Lights Conference and 3-1 overall, while Palmer drops to 0-2 in the league and 1-4 overall.
The Stars got on the board early, with Zac Buckbee rushing 37 yards for a touchdown and Brayden Taylor scoring after a 36-yard run in the first quarter, lifting Soldotna to 14-0 heading into the second.
SoHi kept up the offensive pressure through the rest of the half. Gehret Medcoff ran a 37-yard touchdown to the end zone with 7:29 left, and Taylor scored again after a 63-yard rush with 2:40 left in the half. Medcoff rushed a total of 141 yards on 16 carries.
The Stars led at halftime, 28-0.
“I think we were certainly more consistent in the first half,” SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “It was nice to see us come out and get a stop on that first drive and then march down and score. It’s a great way to start a football game, for sure.”
Soldotna had five offensive possessions in the first half, capitalizing to score on four of them.
Defensively, Brantley Jr. said he was impressed by SoHi’s ability to keep Palmer at bay in the first half.
“I thought we did a real good job early,” he said. “We shut them out.”
Taylor scored another touchdown on Soldotna’s second possession of the third quarter from the 3-yard line, lifting the Stars to 34-0 with 2:18 left in the quarter. Taylor rushed 152 yards on five carries Friday night.
The Moose then responded with their first touchdown of the game. Palmer’s Elijah Barnes scored on an 84-yard kick return to put Palmer on the board with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Soldotna’s Dylan Dahlgren received a pass from Buckbee to score an 11-yard touchdown for the Stars with only three seconds left in the third.
The senior said the Stars were able to put on offensive pressure when they needed to.
“I think that when we stuck to our ground and pound, ‘We’re going to be bigger, tougher and meaner than you,’ mind-set, we did really well,” Dahlgren said.
SoHi was ahead, 40-7, at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Moose came back in an effort to narrow Soldotna’s lead with a 4-yard touchdown by Lucas Frank on Palmer’s first possession of the last half.
The Stars answered back, Dahlgren scoring on a long pass — 35 yards — from Taylor to put another six points on the board for Soldotna.
Dahlgren said he always gets a split-second feeling of shock when he catches a pass to rush toward the end zone, but once he scores it feels great. He received two passes amounting to 46 yards on Friday.
“It feels good to do your job because it takes 11 guys doing their jobs for that play to happen,” he said. “Our big guys up front did a great job today and our backs just fall right behind us.”
Palmer’s Ben Simmerman and Frank scored touchdowns each in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to lift them to the win.
Soldotna rushed for 401 yards on 38 carries.
“We had a breakdown on special teams and gave up the kickoff return, and then Palmer put one drive together and kind of marched on us,” Brantley Jr. said. “We fell apart a little bit toward the end and it’s certainly something we’ll work on next week.”
Brantley Jr. recognized sophomore Tanner Clyde, who stepped in for another first-stringer Friday.
“We had a player missing because of a close contact COVID and Tanner Clyde … played guard for us today and I thought he did a great job,” he said.
Dahlgren said Friday night’s win was especially sweet since it was SoHi’s homecoming game.
“It feels really good to win that game because it’s an important one,” the senior said.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This story corrects the thrower of the second touchdown pass to Dahlgren.
Stars 46, Moose 27
Stars 14 14 12 7— 46
Moose 0 0 7 20— 27
Sol—Buckbee 27 run (Buckbee kick), 6:49.
Sol—Taylor 36 run (Buckbee kick), 4:31.
Sol—Medcoff 37 run (Buckbee kick), 7:29.
Sol—Taylor 63 run (Buckbee kick), 2:40.
Sol—Taylor 3 run (Kick failed), 2:18.
Pal—Barnes 84 kick return (Godfrey kick), 2:06.
Sol—Dahlgren 11 pass from Buckbee (Kick failed), :03.
Pal—Frank 3 run (Godfrey kick), 7:46.
Sol—Dahlgren 35 pass from Taylor (Kick failed), 6:09.
Pal—Fran 1 run (Kick failed), 4:10.
Pal—Simmerman 1 run (Godfrey kick), :40.
First Downs 12 16
Rushing yds 38-401 49-225
Passing yds 53 50 Comp-Att-Int 3-7-0 2-7-0
Return yds 3-46 8-149
Punts 2-35.0 4-24.25
Fumbles 1-1 1-0
Penalties 6-50 5-40
Rushing—Sohi: Taylor 5-152, Medcoff 16-141, Wilson 6-40, Buckbee 4-36, Mellon 3-17, Tacey 2-8, Miller 1-6, Michael 1-1. Palmer: Frank 28-184, Perkins 11-33, #43 2-11, Barnes 2-1, Chandler 3-(-1), Simmerman 3-(-3).
Passing—Sohi: Buckbee 1-3—11-1, Taylor 2-4—42-1. Palmer: Simmerman 2-6—50-0, Barnes 0-1—0-0.