ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The small town of Soldotna is known around the world for its spectacular fishing, but its high school football program is a close second place.
Soldotna High School enters the 2018 season with a 59 game win streak, the second longest active high school football win streak in the nation, according to CBS Max Preps.
It began in 2012 after the Stars defeated Ketchikan 70-0 during the team's second game of that season, and success has been written in the results ever since, with the Stars winning with an average score of 49-12.
“We didn't talk about the streak when it was happening in the early years because we almost felt like it was bad luck,” said Head Coach Galen Brantley Jr.
But that would soon change after the team broke the state record for consecutive wins.
“It went from something we didn't talk about to something we try and use as motivation," Brantley said.
The 2018-2019 season will be Brantley’s 13th as head coach, having successfully established a program rich in tradition and execution.
"I think it means a lot to this town, but I think you have to realize how small this program really is,” said play-by-play announcer Dan Gensel.
That small-town success for the Stars seems to be something passed on from generation to generation.
"I've known Galen since he was a little guy, and a number of players on his team -- I've coached their parents,” said Gensel. Along with announcing the Football games, he coached and taught for many years at SoHi.
“There is a lot of people in this community that have ties to this program. We have fathers who played in this program, and their sons are here now," said Brantley.
While the program might credit its winning culture to a family atmosphere, it certainly didn’t happen by accident.
After the 2003 season, Brantley decided to build his program around the Wing-T offense used by Olivet University in Michigan.
“It’s one of the most deceptive styles of offense you can run,” said Brantley Jr. “I think it’s one of the most unselfish versions of football there is.”
On each offensive snap, multiple running backs have the chance to touch the football, making it tough to follow for those watching in the stands, playing defense, or filming on the sidelines.
The execution of the offense is critical, and it begins at a young age in Soldotna. Brantley says some players have been running the Wing-T offense since the 3rd grade.
“There is definitely a style of shorthand between us seniors,” said Soldotna Center Cody Nye.
The Stars say their offensive style is made to remove doubt, and make players play aggressively, something Nye enjoys on the offensive line.
“It’s a lot more fun than pass blocking,” said Nye. “I’m given an assignment, snap the ball, and get out of their fast.”
From the team's style of play to its streak, Soldotna football has built a reputation that not only fits their team, but their community.
West vs. Soldotna
West and Soldotna will meet in their first game of the season for the third straight year. Both schools are widely regarded as two of the top prep football programs in the state.
“Oh there is definitely a rivalry, and it's friendly,” said Brantley.
Eagles head coach Tim Davis is familiar with breaking the Stars' streak, ending Soldotna’s previous win streak in 2009 during his first season as head coach of West.
It’s something Davis built on with three state championships to his name heading into his 10th season as head coach of West.
The Eagles have made the ASAA State Championship game for the past five seasons, and will return 10 starters on both sides of the ball.
Notable returners for the Eagles: Bubba Mendoza WR/QB & Bolee “Hurricane” Gridley OL/DE.
Soldotna has some holes to fill on their roster as well, losing 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year Brenner Furlong. Brantley says they’ll have eight returners who saw significant playing time last season.
Notable returners for the Stars: Jersey Truesdell QB/FS & Aaron Faletoi-Eli RB/DE