It may not have looked like a playoff game by the score, but Saturday’s game between Soldotna and Houston was assuredly a game that really counts toward a state championship.
The No. 1-seeded Stars used a 34-point first quarter to blow out the visiting Houston Hawks in a medium-schools quarterfinal contest and advance to the semis next weekend against North Pole, which beat Ketchikan 55-6 on Saturday.
“We wanted to come in and take care of business, and get as many young kids into the game and get healthy for next week,” said SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. “The second week (against Houston) we saw the box packed full of people, and we didn’t want to bang our backs into that and get banged up kids. So for us the natural strategy was we’ll throw the ball a little bit, and be less likely to get hurt.”
SoHi senior quarterback Colton Young once again put on a clinic with five touchdown passes (four in the first quarter) for 134 yards on 7-of-10 passing, targeting Jake Kooly, Ty Fenton (twice), Drew Fowler and Max Conradi in the end zone.
“We just stepped those plays up and our receivers were open and they caught it, so good job to them,” Young said. “Pretty simple.”
Young credited a strong line for creating opportunities for him and his receivers — players like Dylan Smith and Daniel Rosin.
“We’ve got some good athletes and some good linemen, and everyone knows what they’re doing,” Young said. “That’s a big part of it.”
Junior Jared Chavez led SoHi with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Houston’s top offensive threat — Waylon Soptick — recorded 205 all-purpose yards of offense, but that was nearly all that Houston could generate.
“He’s a good downhill player and I thought our first group did a good job with him, but he’s still an excellent back,” said Brantley Jr.
Like the majority of games played on Soldotna’s home turf, the Stars used a stifling defense and a multifaceted offense to score on their first seven possessions of the game, building a 47-0 lead by halftime.
Senior Blake Riley opened the scoring on SoHi’s first offensive play from scrimmage with a 69-yard run, finding room through the middle of Houston’s line and streaking to the end zone less than two minutes into the game.
Houston worked its way into Soldotna territory on the ensuing drive, but Austin Kruse picked off quarterback Nai Saechao at the 25-yard line, resulting in a two-play Soldotna drive that ended with Young connecting on a 16-yard screen pass to Kooly to extend the lead.
Houston managed to get on the board in the third quarter by using desperation plays, such as when quarterback Nai Saechao shoveled a backward pass to Soptick, who then connected on a 61-yard pass to Matt Barron. Soptick later ran the ball in from 29 yards out to add to the Hawks’ point total.
All in all, SoHi had eight players score a touchdown — Riley, Kooly, Fenton, Fowler, Conradi, Nick Griglione, Brooks Furlong and Chavez — a product of utilizing the younger guys who sit as backups.
“That’s also been our strategy, we never get hung up on getting a bunch of shutouts, or trying to put 100 points on somebody or breaking a rushing record,” Brantley Jr. said. “For us, it’s about getting things under control and preparing those kids who are next in line.”
Saturday also marked the final game for the natural turf field, as next year will see a makeover for Justin Maile Field by upgrading to an artificial turf surface.
Stars 69, Hawks 13
Soldotna 34 13 16 6 —63
Kodiak 0 0 13 0 —13
Sol — Riley 69 Run (Asimakopoulos kick), 10:14
Sol — Kooly 16 pass from Young (kick failed), 6:15
Sol — Fenton 24 pass from Young (Asimakopoulos kick), 5:55
Sol — Fowler 19 pass from Young (Asimakopoulos kick), 4:15
Sol — Fenton 6 pass from Young (Asimakopoulos kick), 1:35
Sol — Conradi 17 pass from Young (Asimakopoulos kick), 11:53
Sol — Griglione 3 run (Asimakopoulos kick), 5:40
Sol — Furlong 3 run (Lott pass from Urban), 9:21
Hou — Barren 61 pass from Soptick (Soptick kick), 6:19
Sol — Chavez 49 run (Prior pass from Urban), 6:01
Hou — Soptick 29 run (pass failed), :06
Sol — Chavez 13 run (run failed), 9:33
First Downs 10 10
Rush yds 31-297 36-169
Pass yds 134 109
Comp-Att-Int 7-10-0 6-21-3
Return yds 2-18 12-109
Punts 1-12 4-17
Fumbles 1-0 3-3
Penalties 5-45 15-180
Rushing — Soldotna: Chavez 13-150, Riley 1-69, Young 2-18, Griglione 4-15, Prior 5-15, Kooly 1-14, Furlong 3-10, Urban 1-6. Houston: Soptick 22-123, Saechao 8-25, Barren 2-13, Rutta 1-5, Barclay 3-3.
Passing — Soldotna: Young 7-10-0—134. Houston: Saechao 5-18-3—48, Soptick 1-3-0—61.
Receiving — Soldotna: Furlong 1-30, Fenton 2-30, Fowler 1-19, Conradi 1-17, Kooly 1-16, Griglione 1-14. Houston: Barren 1-61, Soptick 2-21, Quincy 1-22, Ruta 2-5.