Soldotna's Kelly Seggerman (44) and Erick Morris (84) head off Skyview's Eddie Buffington in the third quarter Friday at Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Soldotna offense was so deceptive on a rainy Friday night at Justin Maile Field that even the referees were fooled.
The Stars were trailing a Northern Lights Conference game against archrival Skyview 7-6 in the second quarter when quarterback Aleks Pfaffe ran a quarterback keeper. As Pfaffe broke into the open field with only a few defenders to beat, the whistle blew because the officials thought one of the players Pfaffe had faked to had carried the ball and been tackled.
While Soldotna's perfect deception hurt it there, that same deception would lead to 56- and 41-yard touchdown runs by Pfaffe in the second half and a 35-14 victory for Soldotna. Pfaffe used the keepers to rush for 144 yards on 10 carries while Mike Reed had 116 yards on 19 carries.
The victory improved Soldotna's NLC record to 2-1 and kept alive the playoff hopes of the Stars. SoHi also improved to 15-1 against the Panthers. Skyview fell to 0-3 in the NLC and is eliminated from the playoff chase.
The Stars dominated the second half of the game. Soldotna had 293 of its 431 rushing yards in the second half. Meanwhile, Skyview had 147 of its 206 yards of total offense in the first half.
"Their line wore us out in the second half," Skyview coach Phil Sheridan said. "To beat a team like that, you have to have a better line."
Soldotna's Erick Morris, right, beats Skyview's Eli Hutchinson to a Skyview fumble in the fourth quarter Friday at Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Although Soldotna ended up winning comfortably, the Stars did have to come back from a 14-6 deficit at halftime. Soldotna marched 75 yards down the field in a little over four minutes on its first drive of the game, with Marvin Tate scoring a 2-yard touchdown.
However, Skyview answered with a 49-yard drive capped by a 4-yard score by Gregory Bosick to take a 7-6 lead. Soldotna's Bryce Gardner then fumbled on the kickoff. Skyview got to Soldotna's 12 before Tate stopped the drive with an interception.
The Panthers, with help from the inadvertent whistle on the Pfaffe keeper, then forced Soldotna to punt and blocked the punt, setting up another 4-yard Bosick score before the half. Bosick led the Skyview rushing attack, which had a lot of success running left behind Patrick Sheridan and Richard Shirnberg, with 69 yards on 15 carries.
"We had no doubt at halftime," Soldotna junior lineman Pat Moore said. "Coach (Sarge) Truesdell said we would come back, and he's good at predicting those things."
Truesdell said his confidence was based on the fact that Soldotna's offense had just three possessions in the first half the scoring drive, the drive turned back by the whistle and a hurry-up drive just before half where the Stars were forced to abandon their running game.
"They had not showed that they could stop our offense," Truesdell said.
The Stars had worked hard on deception at practice all week. Soldotna has three running backs in the backfield on each play, and each back was instructed to fold their arms over their chests whether they had the ball or not. The result was the running backs, and Pfaffe, running out of the backfield on each play with their arms in identical positions.
"It was really hard to find the ball," Sheridan said.
The blocking of the line and deception of the backs led to four Soldotna rushing touchdowns in the second half the two long keepers by Pfaffe and runs by Reed and Tate. Guards Moore or Austin Roberts would pull and lead Pfaffe on the keepers.
"I'd get out to block and there'd be nobody out there," Roberts said. "A couple of times, I thought Aleks had been sacked because there was nobody to block."
Skyview had just 2 yards of offense in the third quarter after Truesdell went from three to four linebackers and the Stars started tackling better. Down 28-14, the Panthers had a last gasp in the fourth quarter when Clark Buffington had a 23-yard run to the Soldotna 5-yard line.
Pfaffe caught Buffington at the end of the run and stripped the ball, though, allowing SoHi defensive back Erick Morris to recover.
"I was just trying to get him down," said Pfaffe, who forced two fumbles the week before against Nikiski. "I was able to get both arms on him, but I didn't know he fumbled until Morris fell on it."
That play, which effectively ended the game, was one of only two fumbles that changed hands on the dreary evening.
"Both teams did an excellent job of securing the ball," Truesdell said. "With the way the weather was out there, I thought there would be a lot more fumbles."
Stars 35, Panthers 14
Skyview 0 14 0 0 14
Soldotna 6 0 15 14 35
Sol Tate 2 run (kick failed), 1:58
Sky Bosick 4 run (Thornton kick), 8:25
Sky Bosick 4 run (Thornton kick), 1:06
Sol Reed 10 run (Gardner run), 9:13
Sol Pfaffe 56 run (Griglione kick), 4:03
Sol Pfaffe 41 run (Griglione kick), 11:49
Sol Tate 1 run (Griglione kick), 5:00
First downs 9 19
Rushes-yards 45-181 54-431
Passing yards 25 27
Return yards 0 20
Passing 1-4-1 2-3-1
Punts-avg 2-39 1-(-11)
Fumbles-lost 7-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-50 6-46
Rushing Skyview: Bosick 15-69, E. Buffington 6-9, C. Buffington 6-64, Strausbaugh 17-45, Hutchison 1-(-6). Soldotna: Reed 19-116, Gardner 8-51, Pfaffe 10-144, Tate 12-89, Dooley 1-(-1), Howarth 3-11, Hatt 1-21.
Passing Skyview: Strausbaugh 1-3-125, Carlon 0-1-00. Soldotna: Pfaffe 2-3-127.
Receiving Skyview: Dolifka 1-25. Soldotna: Wilbanks 1-7, Gardner 1-20.
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