Soldotna football head coach Sarge Truesdell congratulates players during a game last August. Truesdell is resigning after six seasons at the helm but will remain with the team as an assistant.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Sarge Truesdell, who in 2006 led Soldotna High School to the first football state title in its history, is stepping down from the head coaching position after six seasons.
Truesdell recently accepted an assistant principal’s job at Soldotna Middle School. He said it is Kenai Peninsula Borough School District precedent for administrators to not be head coaches. Truesdell also had been the wrestling co-coach last season. He said he will now be out of high school wrestling completely.
Galen Brantley Jr., who has been a SoHi football assistant for five years and also coached football for four years in North Dakota, will take over for Truesdell. Truesdell will still be an assistant with the Stars.
Due to taking the football job, Brantley Jr. is stepping down as the head track coach after two seasons. He will be replaced by Jason Buckbee, who has been a SoHi track assistant for two years. Brantley Jr. will stay on as a track assistant and also will be taking over athletic director duties from Pat Nolden.
As had been previously announced, Nolden will be the assistant hockey coach with new head coach Kyle Howell.
“There’s really a lot of movement, but nobody is leaving,” Brantley Jr. said. “We’re keeping our athletic staffs intact. The buck just stops with different people now.”
Truesdell has been with the Soldotna football program for nine years. He took over as the third head coach in the program’s history in midseason in 2001. He compiled a 34-18 record, including 4-4 in the playoffs. He also won Northern Lights Conference titles in 2001, 2002 and 2006.
“Because of pride, it’s hard to step down because the program is right where I want it,” Truesdell said. “I’m a teacher and coach, and I had the opportunity for the administrator job. It’s something I went to college for and am excited about. I’ll still have my hand in coaching.”
Truesdell said there are 100-plus athletes out for football at Soldotna, about 25 in each class. He said the players have bought in to the weight room and offseason camps and he sees a string of at least four or five years of success for the squad. He also said the town’s Pop Warner program is now churning out quality players.
Brantley Jr. said he does not expect any major changes in the program.
“Sarge and myself and Jeff Baker have pretty much been running it the last five years,” he said.
The main difference will be behind the scenes. Truesdell used to have weekly meetings with the booster club and organize camps. Now, all that legwork will fall to Brantley Jr. Of course, Brantley Jr. will now make the big calls on 4th-and-1 instead of Truesdell, as well.
“I was telling one of the moms today that I didn’t think the kids would feel this hardly at all,” Truesdell said.
Because of all the additional responsibilities for football, Brantley Jr. had to lessen his track responsibilities.
“Being the head coach of any sport is a year-round job,” Brantley Jr. said. “It’s very difficult to do two sports and do them both justice.”
Buckbee will now try and carry on the legacy of the track and field program which Mark Devenney built up, winning three state titles in 14 years before leaving in 2005.
“There are big shoes to fill when a guy like Mark Devenney has coached at a school,” Buckbee said. “You still have to do things the way you’ve always done them whether he went before you or not. It definitely lends itself to expectations. Track at Soldotna is a little more well-known because of him.”
Buckbee was an NCAA All-American in track at Nebraska-Wesleyan in the long jump. He has been coaching the sprinters and triple and long jumpers at Soldotna.
He also is a physical therapist at Central Peninsula Hospital.
Brantley Jr., who was the first state champion Devenney had at Soldotna, said giving up the track head job is tough.
“I’m not leaving my throwers,” Brantley Jr. said. “It’s just a head coaching responsibility shift, and I’m extremely confident in the gentleman replacing me.”
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