Soldotna's Bryce Gardner dodges Kodiak's Michael Atonio (59) and Logan Gonzales (84) in the first quarter Saturday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Yep, that was Soldotna's football team Saturday staring at a deficit for the first time.
And it was the Stars who only managed three first downs in the first quarter. And in fact, it was the same Stars who were deadlocked 7-7 after the period.
But the Stars did eventually align. In fact, something very cosmic seemed to shoot through Justin Maile Field during the second quarter when Soldotna blew open a 70-14 whipping of Kodiak in Northern Lights Conference football.
The final thud of all the hype surrounding the matchup of the state's top two ranked small schools didn't come officially until about 8 in the evening. But in reality, even with such an incredible first quarter, this one was like so many others - over by halftime.
State-ranked No. 1 Soldotna, which defeated Kodiak twice la st season, including in the state title game, ran its program-best winning streak to 15 while climbing to 6-0. The Stars (3-0 NLC) dispatched Kodiak from a share of first in the league, dropping the Bears to 3-1, 4-2 overall.
"They actually came out more fired up than us," said senior Josh DeTavernier. "But we held together as a team. After the first quarter, they started to wear down some. It came down to conditioning."
And like so many other phases of the game, Soldotna was superior there, too.
The Stars front line DeTavernier and seniors Matthew Strieby, Ryan Shelton, Les Baker, Josh Denna, Timo Gleason plus sophomore Jake Jansen were nothing if not more physical. And that's saying a bit against Kodiak.
The hard-hitting Bears were resilient, just unable to match up in numbers of athletes and what those athletes could execute.
Defensively the Stars pounded away at and harassed 5-foot-3 Kodiak senior quarterback Jimmy Eggemeyer. Eggemeyer was sacked three times and didn't quarterback the second half.
The Bears finished the game with a negative total in rushing yards, and would have even without the minus-27 they took when a punt snap went awry.
Soldotna, meanwhile, was a fluid machine for an incredible run of 24 minutes bridging intermission. The Stars scored nine touchdowns in the second and third quarters, with junior quarterback Anthony Griglione doing much of the damage.
Griglione ran for three scores and threw for three more. The backbreaker was delivered by senior Bryce Gardner, returning a punt 65 yards to lift the Stars to a 21-7 lead with more than nine minutes to go before the half.
Griglione first hooked up with Gleason on a 56-yard pass and run over the middle to tie the game at 7. Griglione opened the second-quarter fireworks with an 81-yard scoring run and Gardner's punt return signaled the first head-hanging from Kodiak.
"Everybody has some nice blocks on that play," DeTavernier said. "That was a huge point in the game. And he's done it before."
Gardner hauled in a 30-yard scoring reception and Griglione added scoring runs of 47 and 42 yards to push the Stars in front 42-7 and delight the sun-splashed partisan crowd of several hundred.
Griglione added a 2-yard scoring run and a 21-yard scoring pass to reserve Joe Shirley in the third quarter. Senior Marvin Tate, stuffed in the middle during the first half, broke away for scoring runs of 64 and 13 yards to end the scoring with 1:48 to play in the third quarter.
"We knew this was going to be one of the toughest games," Shelton said.
But with Shelton, Denna, Strieby and DeTavernier playing wrecking ball on Soldotna's defensive line, the toughness was only measured by the hits. And both teams delivered plenty.
"We expected a game, and the first quarter Kodiak didn't disappoint," Stars head coach Galen Brantley said. "They were more intense than we were."
Griglione finished with 218 yards rushing on just 13 carries. Tate managed 106 on 11 totes. Griglione also threw for 119 yards, completing half of his eight attempts.
Stars 70, Bears 14
Kodiak 7 0 7 0 14
Soldotna 7 35 28 0 70
K - Bryant 3 pass from Eggemeyer (Cratty kick), 8:39.
S - Gleason 56 pass from Griglione (Elson kick), 7:00.
S - Griglione 81 run (Elson kick), 10:55.
S - Gardner 65 punt return (Elson kick), 9:39.
S - Gardner 30 pass from Griglione (Elson kick), 7:22.
S - Griglione 47 run (Elson kick), 5:06.
S - Griglione 42 run (Elson kick), 1:36.
S - Griglione 2 run (Elson kick), 8:06.
K - Odell 95 kickoff return (Cratty kick), 7:45
S - Shirley 21 pass from Griglione (Elson kick), 5:36.
S - Tate 64 run (Elson kick), 4:07.
S - Tate 13 run (Elson kick), 1:48.
First downs 8 14
Rushes-yards 33-(-41) 37-353
Passing yards 64 119
Passes 7-21-2 4-8-0
Return yards 0 15
Punts-Ave. 9-27.7 1-33
Fumbles-lost 3-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 1-5 6-50
RUSHING - Kodiak:Anthony 2-(-2), Diocares 7-(-17), Odell 12-39, Schwentes 2-(-3), Eggemeyer 8-(-28), Francisco 1-(-5), Team 1-(-27); Soldotna: Griglione 13-218, Tate 11-106, Gardner 4-23, Morris 1-3, Nolden 2-4, Carroll 2-8, Aberkane 2-0, Wood 1-1, Elson 1-0.
PASSING - Kodiak: Diocares 1-7-1, 21 yards; Eggemeyer 6-14-1, 43 yards; Soldotna: Griglione 4-8-0, 119 yards.
RECEIVING - Kodiak: Dittman 1-21, Bryant 2-5, Diocares 2-27, Francisco 1-8, Odell 1-3; Soldotna: Gleason 1-56, Gardner 1-30, Shirley 1-21, Tate 1-12.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.