Soldotna football wins 18th straight conference title

The visiting Soldotna football team defeated Eagle River 55-7 on Saturday to finish the regular season 8-0 and earn the Railbelt Conference title at 7-0.

The Stars have now won 18 straight conference titles. Of those, 16 were Northern Lights Conference titles, one was a Peninsula Conference title during the pandemic season of 2020, and one was the Railbelt Conference that the Stars joined this season.

“I’d like to thank my coaching staff,” Soldotna head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “When we go through the season and have the success we have, I get way more attention than I deserve and those guys fly under the radar.”

A measure of how dominant the Stars were in the regular season is that the 55 points they scored against the Wolves (6-2, 5-2) was the lowest output for the SoHi offense all season.

Zac Buckbee had three rushing touchdowns and a touchdown pass to Collin Peck to lead the Stars.

Gehret Medcoff ran for three touchdowns, while Wyatt Faircloth also had a score. Jace O’Reagan made seven of the eight extra points.

The Stars went up 21-0 after the first quarter on two Buckbee runs and the Buckbee pass to Peck.

“Zac did what he always does,” Soldotna head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “He’s our field general. He knows the offense inside and out.

“He has the freedom to kill plays and flip the direction of stuff, and he’s gotten better and better at it over the course of the year.”

Two Medcoff runs had the Stars up 35-0 with 2:22 left in the second quarter.

“I felt like we had a pretty good first quarter,” Brantley Jr. said. “We came out and got stops and were ripping off big plays.

“I never felt like they really stopped us. We did have a fake punt that was stopped, but for the most part our kids were really good offensively.”

Eagle River came off that fake punt and scored with a second left in the first half. Brantley Jr. said the Stars lost contain on one play, then had a 15-year penalty.

“We walked them down and they scored right before half,” he said.

By the end of the third quarter, Faircloth and Buckbee runs increased the lead to 48-7. Brantley Jr. said the 48-yard Faircloth scoring run was a special one where the junior broke multiple tackles.

Brantley Jr. said the Wolves are young but physical, so he was happy to get the junior varsity in for the fourth quarter without any major injuries. He said Eagle River kept the starters in, so it was a great experience for his young players to hold the Wolves out of the end zone late in the game.

The top-seeded Stars will host No. 8 Chugiak at noon on Saturday in the first round of the Division II playoffs.

The Mustangs (1-7, 1-6) picked up their first win of the season Friday, 33-30 over North Pole. Chugiak lost 63-7 to Soldotna on Sept. 22, but moved the ball at times.

“They’re a tricky team,” Brantley Jr. said. “We’ve told the kids all year they’re much better than their record. We always felt like they were coming along and nobody’s surprised they went up and beat North Pole.”

The other three Division II playoff games are No. 7 Wasilla at No. 2 Lathrop at 2 p.m. Saturday, No. 6 Palmer at No. 3 Eagle River at 2 p.m. Saturday, and No. 5 North Pole at No. 4 West Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.

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