New turf field, same Soldotna football team.
The Stars christened their new playing surface with a glistening day of sunshine and a 62-0 nonconference victory over Thunder Mountain on Saturday. The rout runs SoHi’s winning streak to 23 and season record to 3-0.
With the united Soldotna-Skyview community out in force to celebrate the rededication of Justin Maile Field, the Falcons actually were able to hold the fort for the first quarter, playing the Stars to a scoreless draw.
But the pinpoint passing of Brooks Furlong opened the floodgates in the second quarter. Furlong threw two touchdown passes to Drew Fowler and one scoring strike each to Ty Fenton and Tim Duke as SoHi went to half leading 35-0. Furlong would finish 10 of 15 for 151 yards.
“It was just distractions with all the new things going on,” Furlong said of the first quarter. “We missed a couple of assignments, but we answered the bell in the second quarter.”
SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. was proud to see his alma mater open what he called one of the best facilities in the state, but he didn’t think that played a factor in the game.
“Thunder Mountain is a much-improved team,” Brantley Jr. said. “Their coach put together a good game plan. It’s not a mistake they put a goose egg on the board in the first quarter.”
That game plan was to stack the line of scrimmage against the run and control the ball on offense. Thunder Mountain coach Jeep Rice, whose team fell to 1-2 overall, was asked if the early play was a moral victory.
“It was a moral victory for the first quarter, anyway,” he said.
With 9 minutes, 21 seconds, left in the second quarter, Bailey Blumentritt, who also recovered a fumble and an onside kick, ran 4 yards to become the first to put points on the board on the new turf. Rushing score aside, the Stars were quickly discovering the key to beating the Falcons was through the air.
“Like I tell the kids, the defense often determines what plays we are going to call on offense,” Brantley Jr. said. “We’re going to take what they give us.”
SoHi still ended up with 30 rushes for 343 yards. Drew Gibbs had 11 runs for 113 yards and a score, Ty Fenton had seven runs for 105 yards, Blumentritt added a second rushing touchdown and Mason Prior had a 72-yard scamper for a score.
And Furlong said that his big passing day could also, in effect, be chalked up as rushing yards.
“A lot of credit goes to our line and our backs,” Furlong said. “It makes it easier to pass when there are four or five guys tackling Drew, Bailey and Ty.”
Furlong also said receivers like Tim Duke made him look good. Duke caught a short pass in the second quarter, stepped past a defender and outran the defense for a 40-yard touchdown. Duke lost a fumble early, but more than made up for it with an 88-yard kickoff return to start the second half and an interception that was called back due to penalty.
With SoHi’s passing display on tape, opposing coaches will have one more thing to think about when trying to stop the Stars.
“Brooks is a pretty nice football player,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s had to wait his turn, but he’s definitely developed nicely.”
On defense, Brantley Jr. said the unit coordinated by Eric Pomerleau did a good job of standing up to Thunder Mountain’s physical attack. The Falcons rushed 44 times for 123 yards, but their longest rush was 15 yards.
“Jared Chavez did an absolutely excellent job on defense,” Brantley Jr. said of his middle linebacker. “I can’t say enough about how tough he was inside.”
Price said his squad is still young, and struggled with consistency against SoHi. The coach did say Brendan VanKirk and Mason Kullander had solid games at inside linebacker, while the bruising Moa Maka did a good job of bulling his way to 30 yards.
STARS 62, FALCONS 0
Soldotna 0 35 20 7 —62
T. Mountain 0 0 0 0 —0
Sol — Blumentritt 4 run (kick failed), 9:21
Sol — Fowler 5 pass from Furlong (Walden pass from Furlong), 6:15
Sol — Fenton 24 pass from Furlong (Ackerman kick), 3:03
Sol — Duke 40 pass from Furlong (kick failed), 1:18
Sol — Fowler 8 pass from Furlong (Blumentritt pass from Furlong), :00.
Sol — Duke 88 kickoff return (run failed), 11:46
Sol — Gibbs 45 run (Ackerman kick), 9:16
Sol — Blumentritt 12 run (Ackerman kick), 5:40
Sol — Prior 72 run (Ackerman kick), 11:37
First downs 9 12
Rushes-yards 44-123 30-343
Passing yards 13 151
Comp-att-int 2-10-0 10-16-0
Return yards 0 31
Punts 0 7-31.0
Fumbles 1-1 1-1
Penalties 5-45 4-41
Rushing — Thunder Mountain: Maka 9-30, Williams 14-25, Sebens 8-16, Mayhew 1-1, Bear-Clark 12-51. Soldotna: Gibbs 11-113, Fenton 7-105, Furlong 4-8, Chavez 3-24, Blumentritt 3-21, Ackerman 1-0, Prior 1-72.
Passing — Thunder Mountain: Sebens 2-9-0—13; Taylor 0-1-0—0; Soldotna: Furlong 10-15-0—151; Blumentritt 0-1-0—0.
Receiving — Thunder Mountain: Mayhew 1-12, Williams 1-1. Soldotna: Blumentritt 2-25, Duke 3-60, Fowler 2-13, Fenton 1-24, Walden 2-24.