Lathrop football looks to avenge state semifinal loss

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The high school football season starts this weekend, and one team who has been thinking about this week ever since their final game last year, is the Lathrop Malemutes.

Last year, the Malemutes swept their way through the Railbelt Conference (3-0) and earned a berth to the Division II state tournament.

It was in the semifinals of the playoffs where they met the Eagle River Wolves.

Lathrop lost in a heartbreaker, 30-24, and have been plotting their revenge ever since.

The Malemutes will get their chance this Saturday, when they travel down to Eagle River to face the Wolves once again.

"I think I think it's good because now we have experience against Eagle River," Lineman A.J. Olo said. "We know what they run and stuff, practicing against that what they play. I am not going to do all the talking on the camera, just do it on the field, you know, got to show it on the field that is all I'm going to say."

Linebacker Josiah Opp will use last year's loss as a learning experience, but understands that it they will not be facing the exact same team this time around.

"It is different every year, we have been watching a lot of film, getting prepared for this game. There has been a lot of hype around the team, ready for it, and I feel like if we go out there strong, i guess we'll be doing alright." Opp said.

Jace Henry, who was all-state at the linebacker position last year, will be taking over as quarterback this season.

"I have been looking forward to week one for awhile and I am not going to treat it any different than any game, I always prepare for my best every game," Henry said ahead of the matchup.

Henry, now in his final year of high school, reflected on this being his last chance.

"Like you always look forward to your senior season, to go out with a bang, but now that it's here like it's come so soon. Now i'm trying to make the best of all the moments I have."

Lathrop has several new additions, as more than half of it's rosters are newcomers.

Henry is now serving as the signal caller and there are new faces in the running back, wide receiver and offensive lineman positions as well.

Lathrop's special teams were often a weapon for the Malemutes throughout the last season.

They'll look to have all three facets of the game to be a key to their success once again this year.

Lathrop graduated Division II Defensive Player of the Year Deondric Henderson.

Head Coach Luke Balash, returning for his fourth year with the squad, was named Coach of the Year in the Railbelt Conference last season.

The Malemutes had a total of six all-state players on it's roster last season.