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

The Kenai River Brown Bears and Anchorage Wolverines battle for the puck Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Bears close homestand by hosting Wolverines

The Kenai River Brown Bears renew their rivalry with the Anchorage Wolverines… Continue reading

Forests surrounding the Kenai River. (Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Expect the unexpected

Climate change is changing conservation. We used to set goals and objectives… Continue reading

Downtown Seward on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Something about Seward

There’s something magical about Seward. It’s more than the quaintness of a… Continue reading

Nikiski’s Niles Broussard throws Kenai’s Delen Byrd during a dual meet on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai topples Nikiski at dual meet

The meet also served as the Kenai team’s senior night

From left, Dain Douthit, Silas Thibodeau, Roman Dunham, Cody Good and Jackson Anding participate in a practice League of Legends match on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022 at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula esports teams ready for state championships

Players contend with changing games, increased pressure, rival rematches

Tela O’Donnell-Bacher and Neldon Gardner hold their plaques after being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame following a duel wrestling meet on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A celebration of Kenai Peninsula wrestling

Two storied members of local wrestling community inducted into National Wrestling Hall of Fame

A great horned owl sits in a tree. (USFWS/Colin Canterbury)
Refuge Notebook: Finding perfection in the imperfect

The new snow brought our refuge manager outside for a morning walk

File
Out of the Office: On Andrews’ legacy

I thought it would be appropriate to rerun my column, originally published on June 5, 2001

Skiers from Kenai, Seward and Soldotna start the girls race during the Turkey Trot on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna, Alaska.
Kenai boys, SoHi girls clock top finishes at Turkey Trot ski meet

Kenai boys took the top four finishes of the night

Most Read