FAIRBANKS-It was THE rivalry game. The Malemues and Wolfpack faced each other once again for the Dog Bowl. West Valley came in winning seven of the last eight including the last five meetings. That streak ended last tonight. Lathrop earned respect with a 27-0 shutout win over the rival Wolfpack.
It all started with the very first play of the game. Chris Seminario took the opening kickoff 85 yards down his sideline, staying in bounds and crossed the goal line to give the Malemutes a 7-0 lead.
But the Wolfpack settled down and stalled Lathrop's momentum with their defense. The Wolfpack overcame turnovers and bad snaps in the punting game to held the score to 7-0 until the last 49 second of the first half.
After a Wolfpack fumble the Malemutes had great field position at the Wolfpack 35. Seminario scampered for 26 yard run. Two plays later senior quarterback Robert Tanner tossed the pigskin to the back of the endzone and 6'3" senior wideout Terrell Ford snatched the ball with one hand. The extra point was block but Lathrop went into halftime with a 13-0 lead.
Still a ball game as both teams struggled against the the other teams defense or couldn't cash in opportunites. After a West Valley fumble the Malemutes seemed to have a drive going with big gains on passes to junior wide receiver Derrick O'Neal. Tanner tries to go deep down the sidleine but is picked off by D'vnn Cooks of West Valley thwarting the drive.
Lathrop would threaten again late in the third quarter after their defense forced a fourth down and bad snap ensued on the punt attempt for West Valley. Tanner and the offense just ran all the way to the Wolfpack redzone. West Valley's did stiffen forcing a fourth and short at their three yard line. Tanner would get the fourth down conversion on a quarterback sneak. Then on third down Tanner would keep it again for the touchdown. Lathrop led 21-0 with 33 seconds left in the third.
West Valley couldn't get anything going against the Lathrop defense. Turnovers and penalties were detrimental as well. West Valley quarterback Charles Sudduth was picked off right with 27 seconds left in the third by Lathrop junior linebacker Marcus Brown.
The Malemutes would convert off this turnover with a back breaking play. Tanner three the ball to the pile on and O'Neal timed is jump perfectly and grabbed the ball at its highest point over defensive back Jordan Kelly for a 27 yard touchdown. 27-0 Lathrop.
Midway through the fourth quarter the Wolfpack went to the air again but junior cornerback Nathan Barnett made a play on the ball. Barnett interecepted Sudduth again with 5:27 to go in the game. That would be the fifth turnover but West Valley. Lathrop would eat the clock and their defense didn't allow a single point from their rivals in the victory.
"It's good for the school spirit," Lathrop head coach Rusty Ham said. "We need something at this school to get us going in the right direction in the fall sports so we're just here for the school."
We lost seven out of eight of them so we only we have plaque on the trophy. So it's great. I love it. I love my team," Tanner said with excitement.
Barnett may summed how it feels for Lathrop to finally win this heated rivalry game
"All I wanted out here today was respect from West Valley. They've never respected us for the past five years, six years. Never. They always come in here and think they're going to win. I just wanted to show them they needed to respect us because we respect them. But today we didn't give them nothing," Barnett said.
"This is something we've always wanted," O' Neal added. "This is something we always wanted and we worked hard for it. I know I put my heart, my sweat and tears in the this game. I'm just truly happy. I'm blessed. I'm proud of myself. I'm proud of my team and I know we [we're] going to make it today."
Lathrop improves to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Railbelt with the win. West Valley drops to 0-3 and 0-2 in the Railbelt this season.
Next Friday the Wolfpack are home against Houston in a non conference game at 6 p.m.. Lathrop will be home as well taking on the Wasilla Warriors at 7 p.m.