High school sports website MaxPreps has named Galen Brantley Jr. of Soldotna the country’s “winningest” high school football coach. Brantley is the head coach of the Soldotna High School Stars, who have won nearly 96 percent of games with Brantley at the helm. That’s a total of 129 wins and six losses.
Brantley is a SoHi Stars alum himself.
“I have my parents at every game just like I was a kid playing," he said. "It really is a family affair.”
After graduating high school, Brantley played college ball and coached for several years in North Dakota before returning in 2002. Five years after that, he became SoHi’s head coach.
In 2018, he led the Stars through a 59-game winning streak, the longest streak of high school football wins in Alaska history. At the time, it was also the second-longest in the nation.
So, how does a small high school in rural Alaska produce the winningest team in the country?
“You know, I think a big advantage is culture," Brantley said. "And people who don’t think that culture is a competitive advantage are full of themselves. And that’s something I would not even remotely take credit for.”
Brantley attributed that culture of success to the high expectations players have for themselves and their confidence in the team, values he said originated with SoHi’s first football coach, Bob Boudreaux. The team also practices in some way or another year-round, with weight training in the summer preseason and early-morning sessions in the winter postseason.
There wasn’t quite as much to train for this year. The team eked out just four games, all with other Kenai Peninsula teams, rather than its usual 10. But Brantley is keeping things in perspective.
“First thing is you’ve got to let go, and realize you’re not in control," he said. "I think football coaches are kind of control freaks and like to have their hands on every aspect. And absolutely every part of this was out of control.”
Brantley said he feels he’s gotten everything he needs out of coaching over the last 18 years but he’ll probably stay in the game at least until his younger son, who’s in middle school, is on the team. He’s already coached his older son, who’s now playing college football Outside.
“Coaching them, being able to coach my oldest son is probably one of my greatest honors as a coach. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge," he said. "Because I think you find out no matter how hard your child works or how talented they become or how much time they put in or how good they become at it, there’s always going to be those around that say that it was given to ‘em because of whose kids they were.”
A list of the country’s winningest high school football coaches and other SoHi stats can be found on the MaxPreps site.