Soldotna takes ‘emotional’ win over Lathrop

None of the Stars playing this year had previously beaten the team

The Soldotna Stars opened their season Saturday with a major win over the Lathrop Malemutes in Wasilla.

Stars coach Galen Brantley on Sunday called the victory “a big emotional win.” None of the Stars playing this year had previously beaten the team. The Stars didn’t play Lathrop in 2020, and lost the state title to the Malemutes in both 2021 and 2022.

The Stars’ bout with Lathrop was scheduled for Friday evening in Fairbanks, but the game was moved south because of poor air quality, the result of several wildfires in Interior Alaska.

“We had to turn the bus around in Girdwood and actually drive back home with two buses, 90 kids, two vans and a trailer hauling gear,” Brantley said. “We had an entire convoy stop and come back home.”

Despite the shifting logistics of the game, Brantley said his players were always dialed in.

“We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when and where,” he said. “I don’t think there was anything going to deter us from being focused and ready to play.”

And the Stars were ready, opening the game with a touchdown only 23 seconds in by Wyatt Faircloth. By the end of the half they led the Malemutes 21-6 off two more touchdowns — one delivered by Colin Peck and another by Faircloth — and three successful extra kicks by Jace O’Reagen.

In the second half, Faircloth carried the ball into the end zone twice more, Peck landed another, and two more touchdowns were secured by Zac Buckbee and Jaykob Kemp. Each was supplemented by a successful kick by O’Reagen, for a final score of 56-20.

“Faircloth had a phenomenal game for us,” Brantley said. “He was a force on both sides of the ball.”

Peck, too, was recognized for a similarly “phenomenal” performance.

Brantley also looked to quarterback Zac Buckbee.

“He took care of the football and made good decisions,” he said. “A really good job leading our offense.”

Of course, it was the defensive squad who held off the Malemutes. Brantley said they gave up some yards, but they did a good job of not giving up the scores.

On Friday, the Stars will see their first home game of the season, taking on North Pole at 6 p.m.

Brantley said that especially coming out of an exciting week one victory, the Stars need to stay tight and clean up mistakes to avoid a letdown.

“It was certainly a big win for our kids that are here,” he said. “Making sure that they’re focused and we put all the work in for next week is key for us now.”

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