The Thunder Mountain football team got its first taste of the state playoffs Saturday at Soldotna High School, and it wasn't a good one.
Perennial 3A powerhouse Soldotna throttled the Falcons 55-20 in an opening-round battle of undefeated teams to eliminate Thunder Mountain from postseason action.
"We just got beat," said Falcons coach Bill Byouer. "That's it. We got beat."
The Stars took control early after the Falcons failed to score on the game's opening possession, and they would not be tested after taking an early 28-0 lead. Soldotna scored on all but one possession in the first half while holding Thunder Mountain to six points, and the Stars went into halftime with a 42-6 lead.
But Byouer said, despite the loss, going undefeated is a great accomplishment in the program's second year. He also said he was proud that the team continued to work to put points on the board after the half.
"I'm very happy with what my kids have done this year, and they fought to the end (Saturday)," he said. "Soldotna is a quality team, and we got it handed to us. But we're looking forward to next year."
After dominating opponents on the ground all season, the Falcons could not stop the ground attack of the Stars as Soldotna rushed for 359 yards in Saturday's blowout win.
The Falcons, on the other hand, were not able to utilize their bread and butter.
Thunder Mountain was forced to abandon the running game early in the contest after falling behind big in the first quarter. The Falcons - who had 55 total pass attempts coming into the game - were forced to throw the ball 30 times to 29 rushing attempts.
Star running back Cameron Fronimos had his most difficult game of the season, running for 83 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Donald Stokes led the way with 7 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown while Brad Soneson chipped in with 77 yards receiving, including a 49-yard touchdown pass from Camden Thomas. Thomas finished the game with 218 yards passing and two touchdowns.
"I told the guys that I'm very proud of them. They gave us an 8-0 season, and the seniors were really heart-broken," Byouer said. "All we can do is keep improving each year."
With the game already in hand, the Falcons were able to outscore the Stars 14-13 in the second half, but the first half was too much to overcome as Soldotna continued its dominance of 3A football in the state of Alaska.
"We're going to definitely pick up some harder teams next year, and we're going to have to test ourselves early," Byouer said. "We definitely realize where we need to be for the years to come.
The Falcons turned the ball over 5 times in the game and were unable to overcome the early mistakes, but Byouer still praised his team's effort.
"I told the kids to never quit. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot," he continued. "But, hey, what can I say? Second year of the program and we went 8-0 and we got to the playoffs for the first time. But there are no excuses at all. My hat's off to (Soldotna coach) Galen Brantley (Jr.). They just went at us."
Soldotna's Auston Tennis led the way with 129 yards rushing, followed closely by Jared Duncan with 120 yards on the ground.
How They Scored
SOHI - Tennis 4 run (Koch kick)
SOHI-Smithwick 35 run (Koch kick)
SOHI - Tennis 27 run (Koch kick)
SOHI - Tennis 26 run (Koch kick)
TMHS - Sonesow 49 pass from Thomas (Conversion failed)
SOHI - Duncan 3 run (Koch kick)
SOHI - Bosick 15 pass from T. Fowler (Koch kick)
SOHI - Tennis 1 run (Kick failed)
TMHS - Stokes 26 pass from Thomas (Conversion failed)
TMHS - Fronimos 5 run (Conversion good)
SOHI - Duncan 15 run (Koch kick)