It was cold. There was a dusting of snow on the field. It didn’t matter, these two teams played like it was sunny and 72. When the final horn sounded, Lathrop survived a late Monroe Catholic rally as the Malemutes held on for a 26-20 victory. It was the final game of the season for both teams.

The game was everything the 100 or so COVID-mandated limited fans could ask for. One more game for Lathrop, who thought their season was already over, and a final contest for Monroe, which had state championship goals until ASAA shut down the season.

Kyle Allison’s Monroe team took the opening kickoff down the field and scored the first points of the game with Tommy Bast finding the end zone on a 46-yard run from scrimmage. Monroe had a 6-0 lead after the first quarter.

Luke Balash and Lathrop shook up the offense as they opted with a wildcat version that featured four different players taking the snap from center. Lathrop would tie the game at 6-6 on a second quarter two-yard run from Jarren Littell.

The Malemutes led 14-6 at the half as they added another touchdown on a Tyler Clooten 8-yard scamper over the goal line. Dean Sylva caught a two-point conversion pass from Littell.

The Malemutes expanded their lead to 20-6 with another touchdown run by Clooten in the second half.

Monroe responded and brought the score up to 20-12 with a 17-yard run from quarterback Shaun Conwell.

Lathrop went up 26-12 as Littlell tacked on his second score of the game with less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter

But Monroe was not done yet. Two long throws, including a connection from close to 50 yards out for paydirt from Conwell to Garren Nicholson on a fourth and 15 play, closed the gap to 26-18. The Rams tacked on the two-point conversion with a Carter Barney catch and it was 26-20 Lathrop with 57 seconds to play.

Monroe went for an onside kick. Lathrop recovered it, ran out the clock and won the battle, 26-20.

Monroe ended the season at 5-1 and Lathrop at 4-1.

North Pole and Eielson completed their campaigns earlier in the week and West Valley’s season came to an end when ASAA canceled the state championships.

Bruce Cech is a longtime sports enthusiast and voice of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @akhockeychecker and on ESPN Radio 820 KCBF. 

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