Eagle River’s Aiden Roschi is stopped by Soldotna’s Jakob Kemp, Elijah Lee and Trevor Michael on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Eagle River’s Aiden Roschi is stopped by Soldotna’s Jakob Kemp, Elijah Lee and Trevor Michael on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Stars top Eagle River, win 16th straight NLC crown

Soldotna defeated Eagle River 49-13 on Saturday at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna to win the Northern Lights Conference title for the 16th straight year.

The Stars finish the regular season 4-0 in the conference and 8-0 overall and will host a Division II semifinal against North Pole on Friday at 4 p.m.

The Wolves are 2-2 in the league and 4-4 overall. Eagle River is tied for the second playoff spot with Chugiak and Wasilla. Wolves head coach Brad Myers said after the game he is not sure who will win the tiebreaker and head north to face undefeated Lathrop in the other Division II semi.

On a day the Stars honored seniors Gabriel Kennard, Zeek Miller, Brayden Taylor, Aidan Gavalis, Will Inman, Joe Whittom and Logan Katzenberger, dominant offensive games by juniors Zac Buckbee and Gehret Medcoff assured SoHi would not have to worry about a tiebreaker.

Medcoff rushed 14 times for 217 yards and three touchdowns. His 95-yard scamper in the first quarter after a SoHi goal-line stand was a big reason the Stars pulled away.

Buckbee ran for a pair of scores and also threw touchdown passes to Gavalis and Luke Miller. Buckbee also went 7 for 7 on extra points.

Galen Brantley Jr., who has won all 15 NLC titles available during his time as head coach, said this senior class started out bigger, but was gradually whittled away by various factors.

He said Taylor, Katzenberger, Whittom, Gavalis and Miller made it through all four years and their leadership has been pivotal in another title.

Brantley Jr. said the consistency it takes to win 16 straight titles, no matter how big the senior class is or what injuries strike, is what gives him the most pride.

“We’ve had a number of quality coaches in the program over the years, and the expectations those coaches have for the players, and the expectations players have for players, has led to that level of consistency,” he said. “It’s something we’re really proud of.”

Whittom, a left guard and middle linebacker, is 17 years old. That makes him as old as Soldotna’s NLC streak, because a league title wasn’t awarded in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“It makes me look up to those other guys and kind of puts a lot of pressure on us this year to get it done and live up to that SoHi Stars legacy,” Whittom said of the streak.

Whittom said he’s proud of the way the team has come together and underclassmen have filled in where seniors are lacking.

The senior specifically credited the offensive line for a great game Saturday and a great season. He mentioned junior Hakoa Montoya, junior Ala Tuisaula, sophomore Kenai Lepule, Katzenberger and tight ends Gavalis and Talon Gavalis.

That line cleared the way for 466 rushing yards on 50 carries Saturday, with Wyatt Faircloth also rushing for 110 yards.

Whittom also said he’s proud of how the tight ends stepped up after an injury to Andrew Pieh, and how Buckbee stepped up after quarterback Taylor was injured.

The sum has the senior feeling good headed to the playoffs.

“I think we have a really good line,” he said. “And I think we have a good backfield. And I think if we just continue to do what we’re supposed to do and continue to do our job, we’ll have a really good chance.”

Eagle River managed 176 yards on the ground and 82 through the air, but Brantley Jr. said he was happy the yards didn’t lead to a lot of points.

Kaleb Sherman caught a touchdown pass from Dawson Myers for the Wolves, while Joshua Collins also had a touchdown run.

Coach Myers said it’s been a rough past three weeks for his team, with low numbers in practice due to illness.

“We’ve had the plague, or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “We’ve been sick all year. For the past three weeks, I think I’ve had 15 at practice like twice.”

Several Eagle River drives stalled due to low snaps to the quarterback. Myers said his starting center was lost to injury two weeks ago.

Myers also is proud of how his seniors did, as SoHi won the second half 7-6.

“I think we’re coming back on the mend,” Myers said. “So if we go to the playoffs, I think we have a better shot at it.”

Saturday

Stars 49, Wolves 13

Eagle River 0 7 0 6 —13

Soldotna 21 21 0 7 —49

1st Quater

Sol — Buckbee 15 run (Buckbee kick), 10:20.

Sol — Medcoff 95 run (Buckbee kick), 4:26.

Sol — A. Gavalis 53 pass from Buckbee (Buckbee kick), 1:22.

2nd Quarter

Sol — Medcoff 10 run (Buckbee kick), 10:27.

ER — Sherman 33 pass from Myers (Settle kick), 5:50.

Sol — Medcoff 20 run (Buckbee kick), 3:40.

Sol — L. Miller 10 pass from Buckbee (Buckbee kick), 0:10.

4th Quarter

Sol — Buckbee 1 run (Buckbee kick), 9:42.

ER — Collins 16 run (kick failed), 7:28.

Sol ER

First downs 19 11

Rushing yds 50-466 34-176

Passing yds 82 82

Comp-att-int 4-6-1 6-15-0

Punts 0-0 3-33.0

Fumbles 0-0 3-1

Penalties 6-65 9-45

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing — Soldotna: Medcoff 14-217, Faircloth 11-110, C. Peck 6-48, Z. Buckbee 8-42, Wong 4-21, Kemp 2-15, Wolverton 2-8, Dickinson 2-5, O. Buckbee 1-0. Eagle River: Sherman 7-61, Roschi 13-50, Legenza 7-49, Collins 2-17, Bird 1-2, Myers 4-(-3).

Passing — Soldotna: Z. Buckbee 4-5-1—82, O. Buckbee 0-1-0—0. Eagle River: Myers 6-15-0—82.

Receiving — Soldotna: A. Gavalis 1-53, C. Peck 1-14, L. Miller 1-10, Medcoff 1-5. Eagle River: Legenza 4-44, Sherman 1-33, Dunbar 1-5.

Soldotna’s Lokeni Wong breaks a tackle by Eagle River’s Matthew Watson on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Lokeni Wong breaks a tackle by Eagle River’s Matthew Watson on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

More in Sports

Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen races Nikiski for control of the ball during a soccer game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, April 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai sweeps, shuts out Nikiski in Friday soccer games

Kenai girls and boys teams opened with early goals

Head coach Taylor Shaw (center) talks to the Kenai River Brown Bears during a timeout at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Season review: Brown Bears hope to build on solid finish to season

It’s not easy to finish a season in last place in a division, yet have plenty of reasons for optimism for the next season

tease
Homer snow shuffles sports schedule

The Mariners were supposed to host Kenai Central in Thursday

A pair of Trumpeter Swans break through the thin ice in search of emergent vegetation at the Kenai River Flats with Mt. Redoubt in the background. (Photo courtesy T. Eskelin/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Has spring sprung?

I have always found the arrival of spring to be championed by the first sightings of geese at the Kenai and Kasilof Flats

tease
Peninsula Piranhas win South Central Area Championships

The Peninsula Piranhas won the South Central Area Championships in Homer on… Continue reading

Lily Langham of Kenai Central High School and Brooklyn Larsen, Rylie Thompson and Ava Fabian of Soldotna High School, stand for a photo with their medals after competing in the USA Hockey National Championships as part of the Alaska All Stars 19U Division 2A hockey team. (photo provided)
Local skaters help Alaska All Stars to semis of national tourney

Four central Kenai Peninsula skaters were on the Alaska All Stars 19U… Continue reading

tease
SoHi girls win distance medley relay at Big C Relays

A number of Kenai Peninsula athletes nabbed top-eight finishes at the Russ… Continue reading

tease
Saturday: Brown Bears finish season with comeback victory in Fairbanks

The Kenai River Brown Bears finished their season with a 4-3 victory… Continue reading

tease
Friday: Ice Dogs hold off Brown Bears

The Kenai River Brown Bears dropped a 2-1 decision to the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Most Read