Garrett Gardner rushed for 138 yards and scored three touchdowns Saturday as Soldotna defeated host Homer 35-8 in the Northern Lights Conference opener for both teams.
The Stars (2-2 overall) led just 6-0 at the end of the first half, but dominated Homer (2-2 overall) in the second half for the victory.
"When we were in there at halftime with a 6-0 lead, I didn't care how we came out with the win, I just wanted the win," Soldotna coach Sarge Truesdell said. "I was as impressed with Homer in the first half as I was unimpressed with our team in the first half.
"We gutted it out, and in the fourth quarter we executed very well."
Truesdell said his team was extremely sloppy in the first half, accumulating penalties on offense. On defense, he was disappointed with how Homer was able to move the ball in the first half. Truesdell and assistant coach Jeff Baker made some adjustments for the second half and Truesdell said that stopped Homer from moving the football.
"They got inside our 20 two times in the first half but our defense didn't let them score," Truesdell said. "Our defense stepped it up when it counted."
After Gardner scored a 10-yard run in the first half, he upped Soldotna's lead to 14-0 in the third quarter with a 67-yard dash. He then put the game out of reach when he had a 66-yard interception return to give Soldotna a 21-0 lead with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter.
"Garrett had a great game, and he's had a great season so far," Truesdell said. "He's one of the best football players in the state, regardless of school size."
Stars 35, Mariners 8
Soldotna 0 6 8 21 35
Homer 0 0 0 8 8
Sol G. Gardner 10 run (pass failed), 4:17
Sol G. Gardner 67 run (Wilbanks pass from Schneider), 8:02
Sol G. Gardner 66 interception return (Asimacopoulas kick), 5:07
Sol Reed 48 run (Asimacopoulas kick), 4:40
Hom Hagen 4 run (Hagen run), 2:35
Sol B. Gardner 24 run (Asimacopoulas kick), 0:35
First downs 7 12
Rushes-yards 45-281 43-160
Passing yards 44 74
Return yards 80 35
Passing 2-6-0 4-12-2
Punts-avg 3-36.6 2-27.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 5-3
Penalties-yards 11-105 9-65
Rushing Soldotna: Reed 21-107, G. Gardner 17-138, Schneider 4-(-3), B. Gardner 2-34, Tate 1-5. Homer: West 22-108, McWilliams 11-38, Hoanin 3-6, McKinstry 4-7, Ca. Hagan 3-1.
Passing Soldotna: Schneider 2-6-0-44. Homer: McKinstry 4-12-2-74.
Receiving Soldotna: Gardner 1-29, Pfaffe 1-15. Homer: Moffet 2-49, Smith 1-2, Hoanin 1-23.
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