Correction: The game starts at 7 p.m. Earlier versions of this story listed an incorrect time.
FAIRBANKS—Eielson High School head coach David DeVaughn knows that the host Lathrop Malemutes have nothing to lose in Friday night’s regular season-ending nonconference football game.
The 7 p.m.. contest may be what the unbeaten and top-ranked Ravens need one week before they start postseason play.
“It’s going to force us to be disciplined,” DeVaughn said by phone Wednesday night. “They’re going to test us by passing the football and they’ve got some athletes who have speed.”
“We’ve been coaching the guys to be in the right spots and use proper techniques,” DeVaughn said. “They’ve definitely got some athletes and we’re concerned about that.”
Eielson is 7-0 overall and wrapped up Greatland Conference play at 5-0 following last Saturday’s 53-0 win over the Barrow Whalers at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base. The Ravens also are No. 1 among small and medium schools in the latest Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network Poll.
Eielson is scheduled to play host to a small schools state semifinal during the weekend of Oct. 5-6.
“They’re a senior-laden team that’s very experienced,” Lathrop head coach Rusty Ham said of the Ravens.
Lathrop is coming off of a 72-19 loss last Friday at North Pole in the last Railbelt Conference game of the season for the Malemutes. Lathrop ended conference play at 1-5 and is 2-5 overall.
“We want to build on something and we’re hoping for a victory,” Ham said of Friday night’s game. “We’ve got a young team — we’re younger than Eielson — but we still want to play hard.”
“When you play a top-ranked team, you should play four quarters of tough football,” Ham said.
It’s the last game for 11 Malemute seniors, including quarterback Gabriel Cunningham, who surpassed the 1,000-yard passing mark for the second straight season. Cunningham has 1,079 yards on 70 of 139 attempts with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He passed for 1,824 yards as a junior last season, his first with the Malemutes.
Senior running back Kaelen Lee has a team-high 500 yards on 86 carries this year and has scored six touchdowns. Senior Hunter Desmond leads Lathrop with 23 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore Derrick O’Neal has 20 catches for 463 yards and eight TD’s. Desmond also threw an 80-yard touchdown to Cunningham on a halfback option play last week against North Pole.
Anthony Griffith reached the 1,000-yard rushing plateau last Saturday for Eielson with a 10-carry, 192-yard and three-touchdown performance. The sophomore running back has 1,008 yards on 58 carries with 16 touchdowns this season, including one on a kickoff return.
Senior Tyler Ellsworth is the Ravens’ second-leading rusher this season with 77 carries for 795 yards and seven touchdowns.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.