Soldotna snagged another victory in the prep football season by beating Homer 38-8 in Northern Lights Conference play on Saturday afternoon at Skyview High School.
With both teams coming off victories from a week earlier, the momentum was rolling for both sides, but it was the Stars that managed to parlay that into a win.
“For us coming in, probably the most important thing was to match Homer’s intensity, because they’re a very physical football team with a bunch of tough kids,” Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “We knew if we came in and matched that and were physical with them, that eventually our athleticism and our execution would take over.”
Overall, Soldotna was able to make the plays when it counted, creating 13 first downs, compared to six for Homer. Soldotna also tallied 337 total offensive yards to Homer’s 161.
After nearly 10 minutes passed in the first quarter without a score and both teams deadlocked on the field, the Stars converted on three separate first downs to efficiently move their way down the field and score on a 26-yard Noah Fowler pass to receiver Colton Young.
“If they make a mistake we have to try and take advantage of it and turn it into points, and try not to make mistakes of our own, but when you’re being as aggressive as we were with the play-calling, I knew when they had nine in the box we needed to be aggressive and take shots down the field to keep them off balance and our kids came up with the balls,” Brantley Jr. said. “Some were not perfectly thrown and the players made excellent plays on the end of them, and some were excellent throws and good plays, so overall they played hard and I’m proud of them.”
Soldotna quarterback Noah Fowler was quite productive, finishing 6 of 16 with four touchdowns and racking up 113 passing yards.
“We’re really pleased,” Brantley Jr. said. “Noah’s making good decisions with the football, and at 6-foot-4 and as fast as he is, it’s really a mismatch with any defense we see.”
Young caught two of those touchdown passes and ran for another, and Zane Miller received two scoring passes, including a crucial second-quarter catch that bolstered Soldotna’s lead to 14. The 20-yard touchdown pass was nearly intercepted by Homer’s Konstantin Reutov, who tipped the ball just lightly enough for Miller to grab it.
“I was only thinking that I need to catch it,” Miller said. “I think today we all just came together, our team came into this game knowing it was going to be tough but we pulled it out.”
Miller said the key to Saturday’s game was execution.
“We came out there knowing we were up (at halftime), and we had a cushion but they were definitely still in the game,” he said. “We let one slip in the third quarter, but our D-line and O-line did great.”
Homer head coach Camron Wyatt said Soldotna was finding success where his team was giving up on plays.
“At halftime it was just basic football, and they were finishing plays,” Wyatt said. “When a pass was thrown, we’d get a tip, but SoHi would continue the play. Even with a lot of congestion, SoHi was finishing it and scoring. It’s basic football stuff where you play until a whistle blows.”
Homer did manage to prevent a Soldotna touchdown early in the third quarter, stopping the Stars on the Mariners’ own 13-yard line, but Soldotna successfully converted a field goal kick from Cameron Grothe.
“I’ve played against Galen’s kids before, and he instituted this style about eight or nine years ago, and that’s the routine,” Wyatt said. “The routine is you get them to over-persue and you just block them and fan them, and the next thing you’re chasing their quarterback and he’s gone.”
Late in the third quarter, Homer found some energy, charging from its own 45-yard line to Soldotna’s 10-yard line on three plays, including a 29-yard bomb from Homer quarterback Sheldon Hutt to Quinn Daugharty. Hutt completed the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Daugharty, and was successful on the ensuing two-point conversion to Daugharty again.
“We came back with a huge amount of energy, but they were pressuring us hard, and that’s the way Galen coached them,” Wyatt said. “They’d get the stop, and the second time the kids think it’s time to rock and roll, and they’d full block us and outrun it and there would be the trap down the middle. Our kids got excited and stepped out of the game plan.”
Soldotna came right back and converted on four successive first-down attempts to score a touchdown and take the momentum right back.
“We are a running team, but we also have the ability to take advantage of defensive alignments, which is a huge advantage for us,” Brantley Jr. said. “But we’re not going to totally change our stuff, we’re still a run-first football team. You can’t deny nine in the box and not take shots down the field.”
Soldotna is now 2-0 in the Northern Lights conference and 3-1 overall, and will face off against the Houston Hawks at home next week.
Homer is 1-1 in the conference and 1-2 overall this year, and welcomes Sitka at home next week, although the game will probably be moved elsewhere due to the construction of the Homer High School track.
Brantley Jr. said last year’s state-winning team at Kenai Central is a good example of the chances a team has at the state competition, even with a few regular-season losses.
“If our conference didn’t learn anything last year from Kenai having two conference losses and getting in and winning the title, then they’re mistaken,” he said. “We need to treat every game as important as can be. Even Kenai, with the one loss, is still alive. Kodiak’s in the thick of things, and Homer too is a quality football team, and one blemish doesn’t end your season. It’s about improving and executing at your very best at the end of the season when it matters.”
Stars 38, Mariners 8
Soldotna 7 14 17 0
Mariners 0 0 8 0
Sol — Young 26 pass from Fowler (Grothe kick), 2:42
Sol — Miller 20 pass from Fowler (Grothe kick) 4:26
Sol — Miller 13 pass from Fowler (Grothe kick) 1:11
Sol — Grothe field 8:29
Sol — Young 8 run (Grothe kick) 3:37
Hom — Daughtery 11 pass from Hutt (Daughtery pass from Hull) 1:53
Sol — Young 26 pass from Fowler (Grothe kick) 0:42
First downs 13 6
Rushing Yards 38-224 41-110
Passing Yards 113 51
Comp-Att-Int 6-16-1 3-9-2
Return Yards 46 74
Punts 1-46.0 2-30.5
Fumbles 0-0 2-4
Penalties 9-80 3-20
Rushing — Soldotna: Kooly 6-76, Schmelzenbach 13-66, Gibbs 5-52, Young 7-16, Fowler 8-14. Homer: Bowe 14-36, McGregor 8-31, Reutov 8-31, Hutt 9-12, Cardoza 1-3, Kraszeski 1-(-3).
Passing — Soldotna: Fowler 6-16-1—113. Homer: Hutt 3-9-2—51.
Recieving — Soldotna: Young 3-58, Miller 3-55. Homer: Daughtery 2-40, Selbig 1-11.