The visiting Soldotna Stars literally ran over Skyview on Friday night, racking up 500 rushing yards en route to a 46-27 win, their fourth consecutive in Northern Lights Conference. The Stars remain unbeaten while Skyview falls to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the league.
SoHi's Robbie Smithwick was unstoppable. He ran for a staggering 227 yards and two touchdowns. Nine of Smithwick's 11 carries went for 10 or more yards.
"Robbie put us on his back and carried us to victory," Stars head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. "Robbie is a great athlete."
Smithwick's largest gain came in the third quarter when he escaped for a 77-yard score. He added his second touchdown less than two minutes later to cap off a string of 25 unanswered points.
"I had good blocking," Smithwick said. He said his teammates were flying down the field, providing him with open space to run the entire game.
Well-executed fakes also opened up the running game, Brantley Jr. said. With Smithwick's quickness, if Skyview's defense took even one step inside, he was able to get outside and take off, Brantley Jr. said.
"He's been an emotional leader all year," he said. "He's making the most of his senior year."
The Panthers gave a great effort, Smithwick said.
"We knew Skyview would be good, and they brought a good game," he said. "We had to work for anything we did get."
"I thought we competed well," Panthers head coach Eric Pomerleau said. "I think we showed pretty well against the No. 1 team in the state that our program is coming along."
After trailing 14-6 at the half, Skyview's Jason Sounveri started the third quarter off with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Jordan Jones hit Nick Symonds with a pass to convert the two-point conversion and tie the game.
SoHi responded with 25 points in 4-minute, 10-second span. Back-to-back lost fumbles on two kickoff returns gave the Stars great field position, leading to two easy scores.
On the ensuing kickoff after Smithwick's 77-yard scamper, a host of Stars met Sounveri with Jared Duncan delivering the blow that knocked the ball loose. SoHi took over at Skyview's 8-yard line. Two plays later Duncan ran in a 4-yard score. Alex Rodriguez couldn't control the next kickoff and SoHi recovered the ball on the Panthers' 25-yard line. Smithwick found the end zone four plays later to give SoHi a 39-14 advantage.
"That was definitely huge," Smithwick said of the consecutive turnovers. It ignited not only the players on the field, but also those on the sidelines, he said.
As for Skyview, the fumbles proved too costly.
"It changed the whole game," Pomerleau said. "All you want is a chance to win the game, when that will take you out of a chance to win the game."
SoHi needs to reduce its penalties and turnovers, Brantley Jr. said. The Stars had two turnovers and more than 100 yards in penalties.
"It's a matter of us not hurting ourselves," he said. "We've been our own worst enemy. When we slow, it's because of us and not who we're playing."
The Stars worked hard the entire game, Brantley Jr. said.
"The effort was there," he said. "My kids played their butts off."
SoHi had four players with 50 or more rushing yards. Along with Smithwick, Phil Bennett ran for 143 yards and two scores, Auston Tennis collected 58 and Duncan gained 65 yards and two touchdowns.
Albert White led the Panthers with 94 receiving yards and two trips to the end zone. Jones threw for 183 yards, three scores and two interceptions.
Eighty-six percent of Skyview's plays were passes. They ran the ball just seven times for 49 yards, 48 of which came from Jones. Skyview's only big play on the ground came when Jones turned a broken play into a 57-yard gain in the fourth quarter, which set up a 15-yard touchdown pass to White for the game's final score.
"They took the run away," Pomerleau said of SoHi.
The Panthers line provided Jones with good protection. He was sacked just once on 44 passing attempts.
"A few dropped passes changed the down and distance," Pomerleau said. "We're still 3-2 and we still control our own destiny to go to the playoffs."
Stars 46, Panthers 27
Soldotna 7 7 25 7 -- 46
Skyview 6 0 15 6 -- 27
Sol -- Bennett 14 run (Smithwick kick), 6:05
Sky -- McNamera 2 pass from Jones (kick failed), 3:50
Sol -- Bennett 12 run (Smithwick kick), 4:05
Sky -- Sounveri 95 kickoff return (Symonds pass from Jones), 11:44
Sol -- Smithwick 39 field goal, 7:16
Sol -- Smithwick 77 run (Bennett 1 run), 4:43
Sol -- Duncan 4 run (run failed), 3:58
Sol -- Smithwick 12 run (Duncan 1 run), 3:06
Sky -- White 36 pass from Jones (Ferderer kick), 1:04
Sol -- Duncan 11 run (Smithwick kick), 7:50
Sky -- White 15 pass from Jones (kick failed), 3:53
First downs 20 11
Rushes-yards 64-500 7-49
Comp-att-int 3-9-0 17-44-2
Passing yards 40 183
Penalties 11-107 4-12
Fumbles-lost 4-2 4-2
Punts-avg 3-28 6-35.7
Rushing -- SoHi: Bennett 20-143, Tennis 12-58, T. Fowler 4-(-1), Smithwick 11-227, Schmelzenbach 3-8, Duncan 14-65; Skyview: Williams 4-1, White 1-0, Jones 2-48.
Passing -- SoHi: T. Fowler 3-9-0-40; Skyview: Jones 17-44-2-183.
Receiving -- SoHi: Syverson 1-22, Bosick 2-18; Skyview: Reynolds 4-36, Symonds 3-50, White 8-94, McNamera 1-2, Williams 1-1.
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