It didn't take long for the Soldotna High School varsity football team to get its revenge.
The last time the Stars faced Seward at Soldotna's Justin Maile Field, the Seahawks snuck out of town with a 8-6 victory in the Alaska state small-schools semifinals.
How times have changed.
In a game that featured two programs headed in drastically different directions from last year, Soldotna trounced Seward by the score of 48-0 Friday night.
SoHi head coach Sarge Truesdell said Seward couldn't really compete with the his veteran Stars, whose roster includes 24 seniors.
"Seward's struggling with numbers right now, but they kept playing hard," said Truesdell.
Seward's Cody Gilmore and a teammate put the wrap on Soldotna's Eric Simpson in the third quarter Friday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
Truesdell said Friday's game, though not much of a test, helped his Stars gain confidence.
"It was a good first outing. It brings a lot of confidence in our new offensive system," he said.
That new offensive system worked just fine Friday night. Senior Scott Laurion, who will be needed to fill the running back hole vacated when Cason Simpson graduated, proved he's up to the challenge, rushing for 110 yards on just 15 carries.
Soldotna opened the scoring with 9:32 left in the first quarter, when senior Ricky Smith took an inside handoff from quarterback Eric Simpson and scampered through the right side for an 8-yard touchdown.
After that, Seward could do little to either contain the SoHi offense or produce any momentum of its own.
Junior Dan Ghormley followed Smith's score with the first of his two touchdowns when he dove in from 3 yards out with 1:43 left in the first. Ghormley finished the day with 38 yards on four carries.
In the second quarter, Soldotna added to its lead with a 23-yard rushing touchdown from senior C.J. Horwath, followed by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Eric to Ricky Simpson. Junior Shane Tachick added extra points to both second-quarter touchdowns, making the score 26-0 at halftime.
Soldotna's offense looked unstoppable at times, with Laurion getting the bulk of the carries. The ground attack produced 362 yards on 42 SoHi attempts in the game.
After the game, Laurion praised his offensive line for opening up lots of holes in the Seward defense.
"We've got a lot of seniors on the line who are excellent blockers," Laurion said.
Laurion added that the win gave the Stars much-needed confidence in the new offensive scheme.
"The new offense just worked out great," he said.
In addition to Laurion, SoHi had a stable of runners who produced some big plays. SoHi got second half rushing touchdowns from Ghormley and Neil Gardner, while Ricky Simpson caught his second touchdown pass of the contest when he neatly outmaneuvered two defenders to haul in a floating 23-yard lob pass from Eric Simpson.
Defensively, Soldotna was equally dominating on the evening, holding Seward to minus 76 yards rushing and 30 yards passing. The defensive charge was led by linemen Derrick Martin and Clay Burman, who each had five tackles for a loss. Additionally, Martin recovered a fumble and tackled Seward quarterback Jonah Swiderski in the end zone for a third quarter safety.
The safety caused Swiderski, who was integral in last year's Seward playoff run, to lose his cool. The senior quarterback spiked the ball in the end zone following the play and was flagged for his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game. For his second transgression, Swiderski was ejected from the game.
Seward coach Cliff Draper said his team is severely undermanned, due to the loss of several key players from last year's team.
We just don't have the players like we had last year," Draper said.
He said his young team, which includes just 13 upperclassmen, has to look at the game as a learning experience.
"We started six freshmen. They get lots of playing time, but we can't compete with a Soldotna or a Kenai or those bigger schools," he said. "We have four seniors, and they had 24."
Draper said the Seahawks just have to forget about Friday's game and move on.
"You just have to go back and work hard," he said.
The season won't get any easier for Seward next week, as they will have to face another perennial peninsula power in the Kenai Kardinals at Seward.
Meanwhile, Soldotna will get a true test next Saturday when it travels to Fairbanks to square off against the West Valley Wolfpack, the Stars' only large-schools opponent of the season.
Truesdell said the West Valley trip should give him a better indication of his team's strength than the Seward game.
"This was a good game. But if we can go up (to West Valley) and have a chance to win, we'll know we're a pretty good team," he said.
STARS 48, SEAHAWKS 0
Soldotna 12 14 15 7 --48
Seward 0 0 0 0 --0
Sol -- Smith 8 run (kick failed), 9:32
Sol -- Ghormley 3 run (pass failed), 1:43
Sol -- Horwath 23 run (Tachick kick) 4:18
Sol -- R. Simpson 16 pass from E. Simpson (Tachick kick) 1:32
Sol -- Ghormley 29 run (kick failed)
Sol -- Martin safety 3:29
Sol -- R. Simpson 23 pass from E. Simpson (Tachick kick)
Sol -- N. Gardner 54 run (Tachick kick) 4:47
Rushes-yards 45-362 27-(-76)
Passing yards 51 35
Return yards 16 87
Passing 4-14-1 2-7-2
Punts-avg 1-10 3-30.3
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 6-50 4-40
Rushing -- Soldotna: Laurion 15-110, G. Gardner 8-69, N. Gardner 2-57, Ghormley 4-38, E. Simpson 9-32, Morris 2-24, Martin 3-21, Smith 2-11. Seward: Gilmore 5-15, Beck 1-2, Chase 6-(-4), Rininger 4-(-16), J. Swiderski 11-(-73).
Passing -- Soldotna: E. Simpson 4-13-1-51, R. Simpson 0-1-0-0. Seward: Swiderski 1-6-2-30, Rininger 1-1-5.
Receiving -- Soldotna: R. Simpson 2-39, Martin 1-8, Horwath 1-4. Seward: Elhard 1-30.
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