Athletes of the Week: SoHi seniors lead Stars back to state football supremacy
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Soldotna has one of the most decorated football programs in Alaska with 13 total state championships to their name, including eight in a row from 2012-2019.
However, this senior class was the only one in recent memory to not have hoisted the state trophy. But that all changed on Saturday. Not only did they finally get the taste of glory and cement themselves as a part of Soldotna’s football legacy, they did so in historic fashion.
”Our seniors is where it really started at. We have 14 seniors, they’re leaders of this team and they’re just like, ‘Hey, we aren’t going home without a trophy,’” senior quarterback Zac Buckbee said. “It was do or die for them this year.”
After a COVID-derailed season and two runner-up finishes, the Soldotna seniors meant business on Saturday in the Division II State Championship against Lathrop, combining for six touchdowns in a dominant 64-14 victory. After two straight years of crying tears of disappointment, SoHi’s seniors burst into tears of joy on the sideline at Service High School.
Saturday’s win capped an immaculate 11-0 season.
“You probably saw on the sidelines, we’re just in tears, it’s been four long years,” Buckbee said. “We didn’t even get to play in the state championship our first year and then to lose back to back, it just means the world to this team.”
″Seeing those seniors cry, it sticks with you,” current senior Collin Peck said of the previous teams. “It has just been years of build-up to kind of right the ship.”
“I put my hand in the dirt when coach told the seniors it was the last play and I couldn’t even see who I was blocking I was tearing up so bad,” Peck added.
It was one of the more dominant seasons on the gridiron in recent memory, even for a powerhouse program like SoHi.
”It was tough, they came in knowing what the history of our program was and there was pressure that they put on themselves to make their own mark in our program’s history and I really feel like they did that today,” said head coach Galen Brantley, who has coached his share of quality football teams in Soldotna.
”We knew we had a goal, we had a goal set, we wanted to win state, that was our mindset going all the way through state, no matter who played, or who we tried to beat, it was always the same thing, we are going to win,” said Gehret Medcoff, one of the program’s all-time leading rushers.
The team won every game by at least 40 points, outscored their opponents 703-113, and never scored fewer than 55 points in a game or allowing more than 20.
”I think that we are one of the best, honestly,” Medcoff said of the 2023 Stars compared to years past. “It doesn’t compare much to anybody else. You can see it from day in and day out, we’re up there.”
”I don’t want to brag but I think we had a pretty good team, probably, I don’t know, second best to the 2016 team,” Peck said.
”They’re really uncontested, they went through an entire 11-game season and no one really challenged them,” Brantley said. “Even though games were blowouts sometimes, it never got to the point where they took the foot off the pedal, they didn’t stop working, they didn’t stop preparing, they didn’t stop lifting weights, they did everything we asked them to do the entire time.”
The stars were so aligned for Soldotna this year, that they made state championship hats prior to the game knowing they were destined to hoist the trophy once again.
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