On Oct. 3, 2015, a Kenai Peninsula Pop Warner Jr. Midget team quarterbacked by an eighth-grader named Jersey Truesdell played a scrimmage at halftime of the Soldotna-Kenai Central game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.
Saturday, Truesdell, now a senior, and the Stars turned in another exhibition, topping rival Kenai 57-12 to finish the regular season 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Northern Lights Conference.
“We’ve had this offense in since we were 6 or 7 years old,” said Soldotna senior Ray Chumley, who plays tight end and defensive end and was a member of that Jr. Midget Saints team. “It’s second nature to us at this point. We’ve been living and breathing it since we were 6 or 7 years old.”
The Stars took a 49-0 lead at halftime in winning their ninth straight over the Kardinals and moving their advantage in the rivalry to 30-16. SoHi head coach Galen Brantley Jr. is now 15-2 against Kenai.
Soldotna played its starters for the first half. They scored on all seven drives, running 27 plays for an average of 14.4 yards per play.
SoHi senior offensive guard and defensive tackle Trenton Walden has a good idea of how hard it can be to stop an attack directed by Truesdell. Walden played with the Saints until eighth grade, when he became too heavy for the Pop Warner weight limit.
So in that scrimmage where the Saints offense looked just as smooth, if not smoother, than the SoHi varsity squad that topped Kenai 23-0 that day, Walden found himself on the other team trying to stop the Saints.
“I don’t know what team we were,” he said. “We were just a bunch of guys with white T-shirts over our shoulder pads.”
The Stars have now won 14 straight NLC titles and will seek a path to an eighth straight state title when the Division II semifinals come to Soldotna next weekend.
With that history of greatness, it means a lot when Brantley Jr. says of his current varsity, “They have more experience in this system than any group we’ve ever had.”
Brantley Jr., current SoHi assistant Sarge Truesdell and Nathan Johnson molded the players since they were young and now the state, and even vaunted California programs, are seeing the effects of, as Brantley Jr. called it, “10,000 reps of trap.”
That 2015 Saints team finished 8-1 after going 7-0, 7-0, 7-2 and 9-0 in previous years.
“They’ve been together since elementary school,” said Kenai coach Dustin Akana, whose team finished 0-3 and 1-6. “SoHi’s been a well-oiled machine for a long time and it shows.”
Wyatt Medcoff and Aaron Faletoi each had two rushing touchdowns in the first half. Medcoff had 126 yards on five carries, while Faletoi had 68 yards on seven carries. Tyler Morrison struck for a 40-yard interception return, while Truesdell also had scoring strikes to Galen Brantley III and Zach Hanson.
While a solid youth program is one bedrock of SoHi’s dominance, another is the blowout varsity wins that allow freshmen and sophomores to earn valuable experience while mopping up in the second half.
Walden remembers how important it was for him to make his varsity debut late in a game against Palmer as a sophomore, so doing the same for today’s underclassmen is important.
“We wanted to execute and get a lead so all the little kids could play,” he said.
Brantley Jr. said the game worked out perfectly, with the varsity playing well for a half and staying healthy, and the young players gaining valuable experience.
The Kardinals were able to win the second half 12-8. SoHi’s points came on a touchdown run by Dennis Taylor and a two-point conversion by Alvin Faletoi. Kenai got a pair of scoring runs from Tucker Vann, who led the team with 111 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Akana’s squad came into the game knowing the playoffs were out of reach. The coach asked his players to play hard the whole game anyway, and he said they did that.
The game also served as senior day for the Kards. Akana said quarterback Kayden Daniels did a good job of leading and staying positive, Braedon Pitsch, Hunter Beck and Gary Dent are great team players everyone wants to coach, Justin Anderson went out with an incredible punting game where he averaged 41 yards a kick, Will Stem fought hard despite an injury, and Zach Burnett gave effort and played hard.
Stars 57, Kardinals 12
Soldotna 28 21 8 0 — 57
Kenai 0 0 0 12 — 12
Sol — Medcoff 13 run (Truesdell kick), 10:28.
Sol — Aa. Faletoi 2 run (Truesdell kick), 8:52.
Sol — Morrison 40 interception return (Truesdell kick), 4:56.
Sol — Medcoff 1 run (Truesdell kick), 1:07.
Sol — Brantley III 20 pass from Truesdell (Truesdell kick), 11:00.
Sol — Hanson 4 pass from Truesdell (Truesdell kick), 5:11.
Sol — Aa. Faletoi 10 run (Truesdell kick), 0:52.
Sol — Taylor 1 run (Al. Faletoi run), 0:30.
Ken — Vann 1 run (kick blocked), 4:36.
Ken — Vann 34 run (time expired), 0:10.
First downs 16 7
Rushes-yards 33-357 36-144
Passing yards 110 16
Comp-att-int 7-9-0 2-6-1
Return yards 54 0
Punts 0 4-41.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties 3-35 4-30
Rushing — Soldotna: Truesdell 3-39, Aa. Faletoi 7-68, Medcoff 5-126, Metcalf 2-45, Brantley III 1-1, Johnson 2-11, Spies 2-13, Taylor 2-3, Escott 1-31, Wilson 1-4, Al. Faletoi 3-7, Bond 2-9, Hoagland 1-(-2), Mellon 1-2. Kenai: Burnett 2-(-1), Vann 21-111, Daniels 3-(-11), Graves 1-(-1), Anderson 9-45.
Passing — Soldotna: Truesdell 7-9-0—110; Kenai: Daniels 2-6-1—16.