Despite playing with only 10 players for more than a quarter of the game, the Monroe Rams held off the Seward Seahawks on Friday evening to claim a 44-38 victory in overtime.
The host Seahawks had rallied from a 24-point deficit in the second half of the nonconference season opener between the Division III teams.
Seward led 14-0 early before Monroe came back with a pair of touchdowns and a 41-yard field goal from Jordan Higbee to take a 17-14 lead into halftime.
The Rams continued to apply the pressure with three touchdowns in the second half, pushing the lead to 38-14.
With about eight minutes left in the third quarter, an ejection for unsportsmanlike conduct and multiple injuries resulted in the Rams playing the remainder of the game with only 10 players on the field. In a few instances, the team played with only nine when an athlete needed to rotate out.
The Seward defense cracked down and forced Monroe into mistakes, including a fourth-down stop, a forced fumble and a blocked punt that allowed the Seahawks to cut the lead.
Seward tied the game with three minutes left in regulation to force overtime. Seward started on offense but fumbled it away, giving Monroe a chance to end it. The Rams ended the game with a six-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Higbee to Ryan Robbins.
“It’s kind of hard to execute plays with 10 players when you have an 11 man offense,” Rams head coach Marcus Cogley said after the game.
“We didn’t have any rotation at that point and they were gassed … While execution may not have been perfect, the amount of heart the kids showed was pretty amazing.”
Seward head coach Kelly Cinereski said it was impressive to see Monroe pull out the win, adding that it was a “great game to watch.”
Monroe continues its season against Nikiski at home at 1 p.m. Aug. 24.
West Valley 31
The Wasilla Warriors defeated the West Valley Wolfpack on Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla.
The Wolfpack started their season off in style. After a muffed kickoff by Wasilla, the Wolfpack recovered the opening kick and drove down the field for the first touchdown of the game in just seven plays.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have great hands and great speed,” said West Valley acting head coach Norm Davis. “So if we can just get them in the position to make a play, they’ll make that play, and they did in the first quarter.”
West Valley continued its dominant play in the first half, recovering a fumbled punt and scoring later in the first quarter.
The Warriors took the lead late in the first half and would not let go.
After a strong performance by Wasilla’s defense kept West Valley from effortlessly reaching the end zone as it had in the first half, the Warriors were victorious, 39-32, in Ken Ottinger’s first game as Wasilla football head coach.
Davis was happy with the performance of his skill players.
“They can all hold their heads up with pride, and I’m proud of them because we went through a little adversity, lots of changes, different nomenclature and different ways of doing things,” he said, “but they persevered and they did well It was a winnable game.
“We did well. We were in it to the end, so I couldn’t be more happy.”
The Wolfpack hosts the Soldotna Stars at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Whalers, last year’s Division III state runners-up, started their season on the road with a win over the Kings on Friday night.
The Barrow victory was highlighted by a bootleg play in the fourth quarter, ending in a 70-yard touchdown run from Whalers senior quarterback Anthony Fruean.
“We played hard, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Barrow head coach Chris Battle said after the game.
Both teams have bye weeks next week and will resume play Aug. 31, with Barrow hosting the Houston Hawks and Ketchican visiting the Eielson Ravens.
The Frontiersman, of Wasilla, and the Peninsula Clarion, of Kenai, contributed to this report.