After 8 tries, blue brings home gold

Posted: Sunday, October 15, 2006

 

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  Soldotna's Kelly Seggerman (44) and Bryce Gardner celebrate Gardner's second-quarter touchdown on a 65-yard pass play Saturday during the state small-schools championship at Anchorage Football Stadium. The celebrating continued as the Stars won their first state championship. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Soldotna's Kelly Seggerman (44) and Bryce Gardner celebrate Gardner's second-quarter touchdown on a 65-yard pass play Saturday during the state small-schools championship at Anchorage Football Stadium. The celebrating continued as the Stars won their first state championship.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Saturday’s victory in the small-schools state football championship is one that will be savored not only by the current team, but also by all the Soldotna players who have donned the Columbia blue for a state title game and come up just short.

“This is pretty special for me, having come up short twice as a player and twice as a coach,” said Soldotna assistant Galen Brantley, who was a player on Soldotna’s runner-up teams in 1990 and 1992. “It’s very satisfying to be a part of this great group of kids and this fantastic staff to bring one home. We have to thank all the players and coaches who came before us.”

The Stars’ 29-20 victory over the Kodiak Bears in the Alaska School Activities Association First National Bowl finally puts a roof over the foundation laid over the past 23 years, since the Stars first trip to a state championship game in 1983.

“We got it done for all those guys that busted their tails for four years of high school and didn’t get it done,” said Soldotna’s Marvin Tate.

 

SoHi sophomore Jared Dooley uses a bullhorn to cheer his team during the second half. An estimated 700 fans supported the Stars in their first state championship victory.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Head coach Sarge Truesdell said this year had the makings of a special season from the start.

“Since Day 1, this has been a talented group. We told them talent wasn’t an issue, but what was, was commitment and discipline. We worked these guys harder than we’ve ever worked any group of guys,” Truesdell said.

Soldotna opened the season with a loss to the Colony Knights — who, by the way, are headed to the large-schools title game — but have rattled off nine straight wins since then, including victory over rival Kenai to clinch the Northern Lights Championship in the regular-season finale, a semifinal win over Houston and Saturday’s state-title clinching triumph over Kodiak.

“It was a great season. We were the first SoHi team to win nine in a row, and the first to win state. I’m not” ready for it to end, said Soldotna’s Jose Gomez.

 

Soldotna's Josh Denna hugs assistant coach Jeff Baker as other players run off the field at the conclusion of Saturday's 29-20 victory for the Stars.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Truesdell also said he wouldn’t mind showing up for practice on Monday.

“I guess, if we’ve got to send them out, we sent them out on a high note,” Truesdell said. “That’s part of the deal — you’ve got to let them go at some point.”

When he’s not on the field during the season, Truesdell can usually be found breaking down game tape, and he said this one would be a pleasure to watch again.

“It’s funny, we were talking (Friday) night. I’ve been in three state championship games, and I haven’t watched a single one of those tapes — how much can you learn when you lose?” Truesdell said. “I finally get to watch what it looks like to play in a championship game.”

One person who was thrilled to see the Stars finally pull through was Al Howard, longtime teacher, athletic director and administrator at Soldotna.

“Finally — I’ve been at SoHi for a thousand years,” Howard said as the Stars were called to accept the trophy.

A short time later, after most of the players had made the jog to the locker room and most of the fans were heading for the parking lot, Howard stood off the the side of the field, watching Truesdell do a TV interview. Cradled in Howard’s arms was the trophy — the one that says “state champions” on it.

Howard was asked if he would let the players take that one home on the bus.

“No, it’s coming in my truck,” said Howard with a grin.



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