A week after sweating out a Division I clash with West that was separated by a touchdown into the fourth quarter, the Soldotna Stars made sure to keep Friday night’s meeting with Dimond out of reach from the get-go.
SoHi barreled its way to win No. 51 of The Streak at a rainy Justin Maile Field, overwhelming the Dimond Lynx in a 64-6 rout to move to 2-0 on the season.
Senior running back Brenner Furlong racked up 193 rushing yards and four touchdown runs, senior quarterback Brandon Crowder sparked a three-touchdown connection with Galen Brantley III, and the Stars defense clamped down to allow just 218 total yards to the Anchorage powerhouse.
“Our game plan from the beginning was to come out, execute and get stuff done,” Furlong stated. “Dimond is a large school, they’re a quality team.”
Overall, the SoHi defense forced Dimond to five turnovers, including four in the first half, while the offense scored on all seven first-half possessions en route to a 49-0 halftime lead.
SoHi head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said the game was a step up from the season opener against West, which SoHi won 21-0.
“We did a much better job with our inside run game,” Brantley Jr. said. “It opened up a lot of things for us, the passing game was much better this time around.”
The game was seemingly over before the Lynx had a chance to dig their feet in. Furlong did his damage early, notching a hat trick of touchdown runs before the end of the first quarter with runs of 24, 55 and 56 yards. The senior added a fourth TD run from 37 yards out late in the second quarter, and scrambled for a fumble recovery on the defensive side.
“We love it,” said Furlong. “When it gets wet, it takes away the throwing element.”
And when the Lynx defense was collapsing in to contain the run, SoHi opened up its passing game, allowing sophomore Galen Brantley III — another future talent — to haul in three touchdown catches from quarterback Brandon Crowder.
“That’s a huge part of our game,” Brantley III said. “It opens up huge holes, and Brandon threw some really nice balls.”
Brantley III finished with 90 receiving yards on five catches, while Crowder finished 9 for 12 and 167 passing yards. Brantley III made his first varsity start last week against West Anchorage after getting his only varsity snaps last year late in the lopsided state championship game.
A sophomore, Brantley III joined fellow varsity newbies Aaron Faletoi and Cy Updike in the team trend of fresh talent stepping up to fill holes in the vaunted SoHi lineup.
“It’s always really nervous at the beginning, but when it comes down to it, it’s just football,” Brantley III said. “You just have to get over the nerves, and after the first couple of plays, it goes away.”
Both Furlong and Brantley III commended the efforts of the Stars line on both sides of the ball. With the bodies of Hudson Metcalf, Levi Benner, Wendell Tuisuala, Eli Lovelace, Brennen Werner and Jake Marcuson playing pivotal roles in blocking for the ball carriers, the SoHi backfield had little problem in 392 rushing yards on Dimond and 554 total yards of offense.
Just like their season-opening game with West, the Stars had to endure a nervous moment on the field when SoHi muffed a punt return from Dimond that gave the Lynx new life, but this time it came early when the score was still low.
Up 7-0 following a 24-yard dash by Furlong, the Stars forced Dimond to punt in their own territory, but the SoHi returner fumbled away the ball, putting Dimond right back on the attack at SoHi’s 47-yard line.
A SoHi penalty on third-down put Dimond at the 33, but three plays later, Dimond quarterback Paris Motuga rolled out looking for a receiver and instead found Stars defensive back Cody Quelland, who picked off Motuga and ran it back to midfield.
On the very next play, Furlong burst through the gates for a 55-yard touchdown, putting SoHi up 14-0. Brantley Jr. said the swing of momentum was aided by Dimond’s focus on sophomore Aaron Faletoi, who ran over West last weekend.
“Dimond wasn’t going to let Aaron run all over them, and they took him away,” Brantley Jr. said. “That opened things up for Brenner.”
Dimond got down to the SoHi 32 on its next possession, but Motuga wasted the opportunity by fumbling the ball on a quarterback keeper.
Furlong came up with the recovery, then scampered 56 yards to the house on the ensuing Stars possession to give him his third touchdown run of the first quarter and the Stars a 21-0 lead.
Just to ensure themselves of no Dimond comeback, the Stars went with an onside kick and make the recovery to keep the ball. The second quarter began with the SoHi passing game opening up, beginning with a 17-yard completion from Crowder to Faletoi, which Crowder one-upped by lobbing a 23-yard touchdown shot to Brantley III, boosting the lead to 28-0 with 11 minutes to play in the second quarter.
“Brandon threw some absolute dimes tonight,” Brantley Jr. said. “He was great.”
Dimond finally got some offense going on the next possession with a 44-yard blast up the middle by Kekoa Tufaga, and the Lynx got as far as the SoHi 10, but Motuga ultimately gave it all away on a third-down toss that landed in the hands of Jersey Truesdell. Truesdell ended the night with two interceptions.
The only thing un-Starlike throughout the night was the 10 penalties that set the Stars back 90 yards, leaving the Stars with more questions than answers.
“It’s something we’re not proud of,” Furlong said. “We tell ourselves between games to be a more disciplined team, getting zero penalties, that’s one thing we try to do.”
The win also set the stage for Brantley Jr. to record his 100th career varsity win as a head coach at SoHi. Brantley currently stands at 99-5 in his 11th season directing the SoHi football program, and the Stars face South Anchorage next Friday night at home.
“When it finally came for me to step up and be a head coach, it was about trying to keep things going that were started before me,” Brantley Jr. said, adding that former SoHi coach Bob Boudreaux was a big piece of his success. Boudreaux currently ranks fourth on the all-time Alaska coaching wins list with 105.
“I’ve always felt like it was my job not to screw it up and teach the lessons he taught me.”
Stars 64, Lynx 6
Dimond 0 0 6 0 —6
Soldotna 21 28 7 8 —64
Sol — Furlong 24 run (Sheridan kick), 9:29
Sol — Furlong 55 run (Sheridan kick), 3:27
Sol — Furlong 56 run (Sheridan kick), :01
Sol — Brantley 23 pass from Crowder (Sheridan kick), 11:04
Sol — Brantley 5 pass from Crowder (Sheridan kick), 4:03
Sol — Furlong 37 run (Sheridan kick), 1:41
Sol — Brantley 33 pass from Crowder (Sheridan kick), :01
Sol — Faletoi 3 run (Sheridan kick), 6:43
Dim — Levu 16 pass from Motuga (Conversion failed), :17
Sol — Johnson 40 run (McElroy pass from Truesdell), 8:24
First Downs 16 6
Rushing 33-392 28-134
Pass yards 167 84
Total yards 554 218
Comp-att-int 9-13-0 6-22-3
Return yards 57 79
Punts 0-0 3-26.7
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 10-90 9-80
Rushing — Soldotna: Furlong 10-193, Johnson 2-50, Crower 3-37, Faletoi 8-30, Quelland 2-27, Medcoff 1-22, Truesdell 2-17, Wong 2-12, Spence 2-5, Sheridan 1-(-1). Dimond: Tufaga 19-103, Motuga 8-28, Kenaston-Cotton 1-3.
Passing — Soldotna: Crowder 9-12-0—167, Truesdell 0-1-0—0. Dimond: Motuga 6-22-0—84.