FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Week two of the high school football season featured some games canceled, while others had to relocate due to the wildfires in Southcentral, Alaska.
A matchup that went without a hiccup in the scheduling was between the Division I West Anchorage Eagles and the DII Lathrop Malemutes.
A strong defensive start by the Eagles and costly muffed punts by the Malemutes gave the Eagles an early 14-0 lead.
But, Lathrop Quarterback Jace Henry kept fighting and bowling over defenders for every yard. That wore down the defense enough for him to punch it in for a touchdown, cutting the lead to one score before halftime.
It was too little too late for the Malemutes, as they saw themselves trailing 21-6 with under two minutes to go. Henry reached the end zone again on a keeper to cut the lead to a touchdown, but Lathrop could not recover the ensuing onside kick, all but giving the Malemutes their first loss of the season.
Despite the outcome on the scoreboard, Lathrop head coach Luke Balash was happy the way his team competed until the final whistle.
“Man, I was proud as heck of our kids, just fighting until the bitter end. I told them we would be different people when this game was over, and we were,” Balash said. “They all took big steps into becoming better men and that is what this is all about. The long range success road we are on is still there and it’s beautiful and we are excited about the process and getting ready for next week already."
Beyond wins and losses, the game of football can teach you a lot about being a human. The cuts, the bruises, the sacrifices, the highs, the lows, all preparing you for life after football.
When the clock struck zeroes, there was nothing but respect between the two schools. The teams got together after the game and prayed, putting aside everything that just happened on the gridiron. They stated what they thankful for, their teammates, their health, and the game of football. Coach Balash spoke about the connection between the two schools and why it was only fitting for them to do this after battling it out on the field.
"We have been battling with West Anchorage for years now, we took a year off last year, but we have played them every year, played them tight and close in these big games and we respect the heck out of their coaching staff and have a good relationship with them,” Balash said. “Our kids, a lot of our kids know each other and stuff. The head referee actually told me it was one of the best games he has ever been a part of. The hard play and hits and still great sportsmanship. Usually when kids are hitting each other that hard, they're mad at each other, they're getting chippy, but in this case they were just loving the challenge together and hitting each other. So, for them to all get together and pray at the end, that only makes sense, because they just got done loving each other through a battle the whole time and that is a pretty special, cool thing, it really is."
This weekend, the Malemutes will hit the road for a nonconference matchup against the Kenai Kardinals.