With Skyview shutting down its running attack, the Soldotna football team took to the air Saturday to defeat the Panthers 26-7 in a Northern Lights Conference game at Skyview.
"Cameron was throwing really, really good today," said Stars receiver Aleks Pfaffe of Soldotna's quarterback, Cameron Schneider.
In fact, Schneider completed 14 of 19 passes for 166 yards with one interception and two touchdowns not bad for a quarterback in an offense that emphasizes the running game.
"(Skyview) took a lot of stuff away from our offense and forced us to throw the football," said Soldotna coach Sarge Truesdell. "It's not what we want to do, but we've got the athletes to do it."
Pfaffe was the prime beneficiary of the Stars' offensive adjustment, catching seven passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Kory Wilbanks hauled in five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, and Garrett Gardner and Tyler Cameron each caught a pass.
"We did a phenomenal job stopping the run," said Skyview coach Phil Sheridan. "We forced them to throw the ball, and their kids made plays."
Though keying on the run meant little help for the Panthers' defensive backs, Skyview's pass coverage wasn't bad, but the Stars receivers were able to go up and get Schneider's passes.
"That's part of the growing process," Sheridan said. "You were there, now go get the football."
Skyview actually controlled the first quarter of play as its opening 13-play drive ate up much of the frame. Soldotna had the Panthers stopped at the Skyview 45-yard line, forcing a punt, but the kick was short and glanced off a Soldotna player dropping back into coverage. The Panthers pounced on the ball to keep the drive going, but punted again three plays later.
Skyview's defense forced Soldotna to go three-and-out on its first possession, though, and after Skyview's next possession ended in an interception by Brandy Goracke, the Stars had time for just one more play before the first quarter ended.
Schneider started the second quarter with his first completion of the game, a 9-yard pass to Wilbanks, and the Stars finished off a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Schneider, who rolled to his right to find Wilbanks in the right corner of the end zone.
The Stars had another long drive late in the quarter, covering 69 yards on 13 plays. With Skyview taking away the run, the Stars connected for several big passes on the drive, but the Panthers defense held when Soldotna tried a fake field goal on fourth-and-eight at the Skyview 17 and Schneider was only able to get four yards.
Skyview was pushed back a yard on the ensuing series, though, and after a short punt, Soldotna needed just two plays a 22-yard run by Garrett Gardner and a 9-yard scamper by Schneider to put up another touchdown before the half. Schneider hit Pfaffe for the two-point conversion to give the Stars a 14-0 lead.
Soldotna didn't score again until the fourth quarter, when the Stars capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring strike from Schneider to Pfaffe. Gardner had the biggest run of the game, 27 yards, during the drive, but also caught a 27-yard pass.
Truesdell said that with the Panthers keying on the run, the Stars had no choice but to throw the ball.
"They whittled us down to about three (running) plays that could be effective," Truesdell said.
Sheridan credited nose tackle Nick Hann and linebacker Matt Smith with setting the tone for the Skyview defense and taking the inside away from the Stars offense.
Soldotna added one more score on a 7-yard run from Gardner, and the Panthers got on the board with 1:16 left in the game when Tyler Wehrli found Kenny Dean along the right sideline for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
"I just didn't want to get embarrassed," said Sheridan. "... For what we have, that was probably as good as we could have played them. We're getting better so fast, but as we get better, we're facing tougher and tougher teams."
Skyview falls to 0-5 overall and 0-1 in conference play and will host Kodiak Saturday. Soldotna, now 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the conference, will host Nikiski.
Stars 26, Panthers 7
Soldotna 0 14 0 0 14
Skyview 0 0 0 0 0
Sol Wilbanks 14 pass from Schneider (kick failed), 9:02
Sol Schneider 9 run (Pfaffe pass from Schneider), 1:38
Sol Pfaffe 8 pass from Schneider (run failed), 10:45
Sol G. Gardner 7 run (kick failed), 4:02
Sky J. Smith 42 pass from Wehrli (Carlon kick), 1:16
First downs 14 5
Rushes-yards 37-167 44-63
Passing yards 166 52
Return yards 31 25
Passing 14-19-1 2-8-3
Punts-avg 3-38.3 7-26.1
Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-50 5-35
Rushing Soldotna: G. Gardner 11-56, Reed 12-44, Schneider 9-40, Seggerman 1-16, Goracke 2-8, Cameron 2-3. Skyview: England 5-21, Bosick 6-15, C. Buffington 12-12, Rowell 6-10, Wehrli 12-9, Strausbaugh 1-1, Carlon 1-0, Derkavorkian 1-(-5).
Passing Soldotna: Schneider 14-19-1166. Skyview: Wehrli 2-7-252, Dean 0-1-1-0.
Receiving Soldotna: Pfaffe 7-80, Wilbanks 5-56, B. Goracke 1-27, Cameron 1-3. Skyview: J. Smith 1-42, Bosick 1-10.
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