The Soldotna Stars football team capped an incredible season with an incredible game Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium.
Here are the numbers:
• 1,169 yards of all-purpose offense (return yardage included).
• 461 yards of that was completely done on the ground by the Stars.
• 15 touchdowns, six of those in the third quarter.
• 29 plays from scrimmage that went 10 yards or more, and seven of those were 37 yards or more.
It all made for an exciting Alaska state football medium-schools championship that was the second-highest scoring playoff game in state history, as the two squads combined for 105 points.
Interestingly enough, Soldotna also won the highest-scoring game three years ago when they beat Kenai 77-42 in the 2010 state small-schools championship game.
This year, Soldotna scored 664 points in 11 games. That averages out to 60.4 points a game. And their defense allowed 182 points, or 16.5 per game. At one point in the season, Soldotna went three whole games without giving up a single point.
But perhaps the most impressive number for SoHi is 20. That is how many games the team has gone without a loss.
That is a stretch that dates back to Aug. 11, 2012, when the visiting Palmer Moose came into town and beat Soldotna 27-7. Of course, the Moose are a large-schools opponent, and made a bid for the large-schools state championship this year, being ousted by West Anchorage last weekend. (Just for effect, West won the large-schools state title on Saturday night.)
That loss to Palmer came in Week 1 of last year. Soldotna ended up winning the state title with a 62-20 win over Homer in October that capped a 9-1 season.
This year, Soldotna went undefeated with an 11-0 campaign, which puts the Stars only nine behind the school record. It was a record that nearly came to an end on Saturday, as Soldotna trailed Juneau 28-6 midway through the second quarter.
Juneau-Douglas held the lead in the game from 4 minutes, 37 seconds, left in the first quarter to 7:18 left in the fourth. It was a span of 33 minutes and 19 seconds (out of a total 48 minutes) that SoHi trailed.
The Stars had a few crucial stops on defense late in the game — including a pick by Drew Fowler with under eight minutes to go — that set up the tying and go-ahead touchdown runs by senior running back Drew Gibbs and senior quarterback Colton Young in the fourth quarter.
“Toughest game we’ve ever played,” said senior Jake Kooly. “If you watched the game, you should know my. ... I can’t even talk right now, I’m speechless.”
But, many of the seniors on the team will be graduating, naturally, and so it remains to be seen whether or not SoHi can continue their win streak and threaten the 29-game spurt that the Stars had several years back.
Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. said many of the seniors on the team are kids he has coached up through the Pop Warner ranks.
“I couldn’t be happy enough for those seniors,” Brantley Jr. said. “I’ve had a longer relationship with those guys than most of the classes that have come through, and I’ve watched them grow from seventh-graders to young men.”
Of course, there will be juniors and underclassmen returning to the team next year that have the play-making capabilities, so coach Brantley Jr. isn’t too concerned. And just like his seniors, many of those kids have been coached by him and others since their Pop Warner days as well.
“Jake and Colton and Drew, we really put the weight on those guys today, and they did the job,” Brantley Jr. said. “This is a good day, no question about it.”