With a one-yard plunge into the end zone on the final play of the game, Bubba Mendoza and the West Eagles ended Soldotna's 59-game winning streak Friday in Soldotna.
Mendoza's touchdown lifted West to an 18-13 nonconference victory in the season-opening football game for both teams.
The loss was Soldotna's first since the first game of the 2012 season, when the Stars fell 27-7 to Palmer. Soldotna's streak was the second-longest in the nation, trailing a 70-game streak by a team in Kimberly, Wisconsin.
"The streak going away, it was fun to hang on while it was there, but there's no blame," Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. told Radio Kenai after the game. "We win together and we lose together. It just so happens these guys have never lost."
It was the third straight season Division I West and Division II Soldotna have played, and on each of the two previous meetings, the Stars posted milestone victories. In 2016, they got their 40th straight victory by beating West 49-30; in 2017, they got their 50th straight win with a 21-0 shutout.
But a 60th straight was not to be. This time, it was the Eagles who celebrated at the end.
"I think the coolest part of it all is, we've won games, we've won state championships, but this was one of our most family-connected games," West coach Tim Davis said. "Coaches talk about building those social units; I think this victory was our guys believing in each other and fighting till the last 2.8 seconds."
West made the most of a late-game turnover by the Stars, who led 13-12 as they marched downfield on their final possession.
With the end zone less than 10 yards away, Soldotna fumbled and West's Joshua Asi recovered the ball at the 7-yard line. A little more than three minutes remained.
The Eagles drove 93 yards in 10 plays, completing a pass to Marcos Laborde on third down and then getting a huge reception from Kolton Ortiz, whose gain of more than 50 yards put West in Soldotna territory at the 27-yard line. Less than a minute was left.
"The fumble gave us some life, for sure," Davis said. "We got a big third-down conversion and then a big play with 40 seconds to go and all of a sudden it was very realistic that we could find our way to the end zone."
With the clock running down and the Eagles still a yard or two from the end zone, a third-down running play got the Eagles no closer.
West immediately called a timeout with 2.8 seconds to go, and on fourth down Mendoza bulled his way over the line to earn a spot in Alaska football history.
"We had the play ready to go," Davis said. "We said, 'Hey, we're gonna run the ball again — everyone on the field call time out if we don't make the touchdown (on third down).' ''
When Soldotna stonewalled the Eagle, "all 11 guys stood up and called time," Davis said, giving West the chance it needed to run one more play.
The game was scoreless for most of the first half and was tied 6-6 after three quarters.
Jersey Truesdell scored both of Soldotna's touchdowns, the first on a pass to Galen Brantley III for a 6-0 lead and the second on a 35-yard run for a 13-6 lead.
West answered Truesdell's second touchdown on its very next play.
Josh Stoltz, who shared quarterbacking duties with Mendoza, found David Cason for an 80-yard touchdown. West's attempt at a two-point conversion failed, keeping Soldotna ahead 13-12.
Soldotna looked like it might extend its streak when it reached the red zone late in the fourth quarter, only to fumble away the opportunity.
"We would like to have played cleaner," Brantley Jr. told KSLD radio. "We came out here and kind of beat ourselves. (There were) some fumbled snaps, and one at the end that was pretty significant — we were going to ice the game."