Perhaps, when members of the Soldotna High School football team look back on this season, they'll call it "The Run."
While Soldotna's Sean Kelley didn't score on his 55-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter of the Stars' defensive slugfest against Kenai, his effort did knock the wind out the Kardinals for a moment.
It didn't take long for the Kardinals defense to catch its breath -- just long enough for the Stars to score the only points of the game on Cason Simpson's 14-yard touchdown run, securing a 6-0 win and the No. 1 Northern Lights Conference playoff berth.
"It was just pounding all day. Kenai played great defense. We just cracked one loose," Kelley said.
Soldotna celebrates following the close-fought game.
The play, a second-and-10 from Soldotna's own 12-yard line, started like just about every other play in the game, and the Kardinals appeared to have Kelley stacked up at the line of scrimmage.
"We ran a sweep play (to the right). Our outside receiver had a good crack and Billy (Moiles) pulled," Kelley said.
The difference, though, was that after the initial collision, Kenai's would-be tacklers failed to wrap up Kelley and drag him down. The 5-foot-8, 150-pound senior kept his legs moving, cut back toward the left side of the field and found himself in the open field. He finally was caught from behind on the Kardinals' 33-yard line.
"It kind of took them by surprise," said Soldotna coach Rob Dimick of the play's effect on the Kenai defense. "That was a great effort. That's the kind of stuff that can win a close game, those second and third efforts."
Soldotna covered the final 33 yards in four plays. Simpson carried the ball for gains of 6 and 12 yards, Kelley ran for a yard and Simpson finished up with his touchdown run, getting over the goal line with a great second effort.
"We knew we had to punch it in then," Kelley said. "Cason made a great play to get over the pylon."
Had Kelley's run never happened, both teams might still be slugging it out around midfield. While Kenai's offense made little headway against the Stars' defense, the Kenai defense kept pushing the Soldotna farther and farther back.
"Our defense played good enough to win, but our offense didn't play good enough to beat anybody," Kenai coach Jim Beeson said. "The whole second half, we pushed them back. I told the kids we just had to score one of those times."
"We could not get field position," Dimick said. "Any time you're starting from your own 15 or 20, it's tough to get any life, and Kenai's defense wouldn't let us get that life. ... When we got the football back with four minutes to go, I thought if we didn't do it now, it would go to overtime."
Kenai got the ball back with 2:55 left in the game. Jeff Jackson converted a fourth-and-two from the Kenai 47 with a 4-yard run to keep the drive going, but the Kardinals were not so fortunate on their next fourth down, when quarterback Wally Ward, under heavy pressure, had his pass picked off by Matt DeRaeve.
The Kardinals burned their final two timeouts and got one more chance from their own 47-yard line with two seconds to play, but Ward's last-gasp pass fell incomplete.
"This is exactly the type of game I expected," Dimick said. "We were fortunate enough to win it. I'm just glad we came out on top."
Soldotna faces Homer Saturday while Kenai plays Skyview.
STARS 6, KARDINALS 0
Kenai 0 0 0 0 --0
Soldotna 0 0 0 6 --6
Sol -- C. Simpson 14 run (rush failed), 2:55
First downs 4 10
Rushes-yards 35-(-2) 46-150
Passing yards 27 29
Return yards 33 45
Passing 3-14-2 2-11-2
Punts-avg 8-25.8 6-18.2
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-0
Penalties-yards 6-35 14-120
Rushing -- Kenai: Jackson 24-2, Janson 5-2, Ward 5-(-4), Hogue 1-(-2). Soldotna: Kelley 16-111, C. Simpson 18-74, Williams 2-23, Laurion 1-3, Morris 1-3, Rose 8-(-18).
Passing -- Kenai: Ward 3-13-2-27, Janson 0-1-0-0. Soldotna: Rose 2-11-2-29.
Receiving -- Soldotna: Morris 1-22, DeRaeve 1-7. Kenai: Janson 1-12, Jackson 1-10, Baldwin 1-5.
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