palmer




Like most who share my 99645 zip code, I have been waiting for the Palmer-Soldotna prep football rematch since the final horn sounded after SoHi’s 21-0 over the Moose in the 2017 Division II state championship game.

Well folks, we’re going to get it. But it’s a week earlier than most of us expected.

In undoubtedly the most intriguing game of the first week of Alaska’s prep football playoffs, the six-time defending state champion Stars face the Moose in the Division II semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. at Palmer High School, the host of the DII championships.

Again, most intriguing.

It’s the third straight meeting between Soldotna and Palmer in the DII playoffs. The last two came in the championship game. The game features two of the six Alaska coaches in the 100-win club. Palmer mentor Rod Christiansen holds the career record for wins as a head coach, with 159. Soldotna head coach Galen Brantley Jr was the fastest in state history to hit 100 career wins.

Soldotna extended its state-record winning streak to 59 games in the 2017 state title game, despite being outgained offensively by the Moose. West Anchorage beat Soldotna during the opening week of the season, snapping the streak, which at the moment was the second-longest current streak in the nation. But the Stars have rebounded with seven straight victories.

The Stars finished undefeated in the Northern Lights Conference, which used to include Palmer, and holds a No. 1 seed in the four-team Division II playoff. Palmer, which was moved from the Division II NLC to the DII Railbelt during the offseason, finished second in the conference. The Moose (6-2, 3-1) dropped a tough loss to Lathrop 19-14 in Week 7.

The other Division II semifinal is also interesting. Lathrop, a first-time Division II program, faces Eagle River, which is making its first trip to the postseason in school history. The Malemutes play the Wolves Saturday at 4 p.m. at Palmer High.

Lathrop and Fairbanks rival West Valley dropped from the Division I level in the offseason, and both remained in the playoff hunt until the entire week of the season. Lathrop’s win in the annual Dog Bowl eliminated the Wolfpack.

Eagle River is enjoying its best season in school history, with a 5-2 record. Eagle River also beat rival Chugiak for the first time.

East Anchorage and Bartlett are the top squads in the Division I playoffs, earning top seeds in the Cook Inlet and Chugach conferences. East is undefeated against Alaska opponents, with its only loss coming to a team from Arizona in Week 2. Bartlett is also 7-1, with its only loss against East.

East hosts Chugiak Saturday at 3 p.m., and Bartlett draws Service Saturday at 3.

A pair of Valley teams hit the field Friday at 7 p.m. in the Division I playoffs. Colony (7-1, 3-1) hosts South Anchorage (4-4, 2-2) and Wasilla (3-5, 2-2) is at West (4-4, 2-2).

Houston (7-1, 4-0) is hosting its first playoff game since 2002, and will host Barrow Saturday at 2 p.m. Ketchikan is at Eielson in the other Division III semifinal.

Contact Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at sports@frontiersman.com .

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