Soldotna's Bryce Gardner eludes Kodiak's Randy Diocares in the first quarter Saturday in Soldotna.
Photo by Will Morrow
While the Kodiak High School football team showed it is coming of age, the Soldotna squad proved to have its trademark never-say-die attitude, coming from behind to defeat the visiting Bears 26-24 in a Northern Lights Conference game at Justin Maile Field.
“We just found out that we have a team that will never quit,” said Soldotna head coach Sarge Truesdell. “... We won the football game that was the goal coming in. That was a very, very important game. It means as much as any Kenai or Skyview game. We had to have it.”
The Stars got off to a flying start, putting up a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter. Marvin Tate capped Soldotna’s opening drive with a 34-yard touchdown run, and Soldotna quarterback Aleks Pfaffe connected with tight end Kory Wilbanks for a 20-yard scoring strike with under a minute left on the clock.
Kodiak never panicked, though, and used just one play to get back into it as quarterback Stuart McFarland found Clyde Valdez streaking down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown pass.
The Bears kept the Stars back on their heels through the rest of the first half as McFarland completed several more big passes, finding the end zone again on a 60-yard pass to Curtis Catt with 3:55 left in the first half.
Catt also came up with an interception on the Kodiak goal line with under a minute to play in the half, returning past midfield to set up one more scoring opportunity for the Bears one that was a bobbled ball in the end zone away from panning out.
The Bears made it 24-13 Kodiak made two-point conversions on all three touchdowns early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard McFarland to Catt connection before the Stars got themselves back into gear.
Tate and Mike Reed pounded the ball on the ground for the Stars on their next drive, capped by Reed with an 11-yard run up the middle. The extra point by Anthony Griglione pulled Soldotna to within four points, 24-20.
The Stars defense then forced a punt, and Soldotna put together a six-play drive for the winning score, a 37-yard run around the left side by Tate.
“It’s all our offensive linemen. They’re amazing,” Reed said of the way the Stars were able to grind out the win in the fourth quarter. “They got it done. They stayed positive and gave us heart. That’s what it came down to in the end.”
Reed finished with 204 rushing yards on 34 carries behind his offensive line while Tate had 178 yards on 16 carries.
Kodiak coach Todd Cook said his squad wasn’t lacking any heart indeed, the Bears were spirited on the field and from the sidelines for the entire game he just ran out of bodies down the stretch as several players were nicked up and two, he said, had broken bones.
“Our guys have heart. Once you have that, everything else falls into place,” Cook said. “Soldotna has a tough offense to stop, but we hung in there, and we kept coming at them offensively.”
Cook said he saw quite a bit of improvement from the first game to the second and is optimistic about the rest of the season.
A Kodiak player intercepts a Soldotna pass intended for Kelly Seggerman (44) and tipped in the end zone in front of Kodiak's Mark LeDoux (11) and Soldotna's Kory Wilbanks (88).
Photo by Will Morrow
“We’ve got our sights set on the playoffs. If we can keep guys healthy on the field, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t get there,” Cook said. “I’m proud of these guys. They’ve worked hard. Each year, our program gets better and better watch out, mainland football.”
Truesdell said he’s not quite sure just how good his team will be just yet, but said he had a great bunch of players to coach. Their next test is Friday against Houston.
Stars 26, Bears 24
Kodiak 8 8 0 8 14
Soldotna 13 0 0 13 26
Sol Tate 34 run (Griglione kick), 10:24
Sol Wilbanks 20 pass from Pfaffe (kick failed), 0:39
Kod Valdez 80 pass from McFarland (Merick pass from McFarland), 0:27
Kod Catt 82 pass from McFarland (Peterson pass from Odell), 3:55
Kod Catt 3 pass from McFarland (No. 9 pass from McFarland), 11:47
Sol Reed 11 run (Griglione kick), 8:11
Sol Tate 37 run (kick failed), 4:37
First downs 9 22
Rushes-yards 22-32 70-412
Passing yards 269 43
Return yards 63 18
Passing 10-27-2 2-9-2
Punts-avg 6-29.8 2-40.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 9-65 7-58
Rushing Kodiak: Odell 16-51, McFarland 3-(-21), Valdez 3-2. Soldotna: Reed 34-204, Tate 16-178, Gardner 4-15, Hatt 7-32, Pfaffe 9-(-17).
Passing Kodiak: McFarland 10-26-2269, Odell 0-1-00. Soldotna: Pfaffe 2-9-243.
Receiving Kodiak: Catt 5-162, Valdez 1-80, Odell 2-10, Merick 2-17. Soldotna: Wilbanks 1-20, Reed 1-23.
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