The sidelines at West Valley High School told the story Friday night.
At the end of the first half, the Wolfpack were in an upbeat mood after soaring to a 30-8 lead over the Eagle River Wolves in the Division II nonconference football game at West Valley High School.
At the end of the game, the Wolves donned the figurative celebration hats after rattling off 28 unanswered in the second half for a 36-30 win. Eagle River’s postgame euphoria at its sideline was a stark contrast to the seemingly stunned atmosphere of West Valley’s sideline.
“Well, we didn’t execute as well in the second half as we did in the first, obviously,” West Valley head coach Norm Davis said before heading to the Wolfpack’s postgame meeting in an end zone.
“It’s kind of one of those things that whoever executes the best is going to come out on top.”
Nathaniel Guderian executed a hard-fought, 1-yard surge into the end zone for the game-winner for the Wolves with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in the game.
“It was all my linemen. My linemen did it right there for me,” the Eagle River sophomore quarterback said while participating in the postgame handshake line.
Guderian said the Wolves “came back from nothing” when he was asked about the perseverance of the Northern Lights Conference team.
“We have a really strong-heart team,” he said.
West Valley had strong legs, arms and hands in the first half.
The Wolfpack, of the Railbelt Conference, went ahead 14-0 on its first two plays from scrimmage — explosive sprints up the field by senior running back Justin Cummings.
“We were blocking up front, we’ve got a lot of talent on our team,” Davis said.
Cummings slipped away from four tacklers and dashed 60 yards into the end zone with 11:35 left in the first quarter. Reggie Mease scored on the two-point conversion run to make it 8-0.
Cummings, on the way to a 10-carry, 142-yard night, stretched West Valley’s lead to 14-0 with a 76-yard burst with 7:49 on the clock in the opening stanza.
“Our running back Cummings is phenomenal and we’ve got to keep feeding him the ball, and hopefully good things will happen,” Davis said.
Cummings was part of West Valley going ahead 22-0 with 9:32 left in the second. Tyriq Nance leaped for a 19-yard pass from junior quarterback Shaun Conwell and Cummings scored on a two-point conversion run.
Cashiez Reaves interrupted West Valley’s flow and registered Eagle River’s first score with a 7-yard touchdown run and ensuing two-point conversion dash with 1:05 left.
With 14.7 seconds left, Conwell put West Valley ahead 30-8 while producing an amazing touchdown.
He scrambled to the right and heaved a 27-yard pass to Cummings, who found an open seam in a crowded end zone of receivers and defenders. Nance caught a conversion pass from Conwell, who finished with 118 yards through the air on 8 of 18 attempts.
Before Eagle River’s offensive line helped Guderian score the game-winner, it aided Timothy Pennington in setting the tone for the Wolves’ comeback in the second half.
The senior running back churned out a game-high 153 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns, which helped tie the game at 30.
His 11-yard run and Reaves’ conversion effort made it 30-16 with 7:38 left in the third. With 25 seconds left in the quarter, Pennington peeled off a 42-yard scoring run and Reeves’ conversion trip cut West Valley’s lead to 30-24.
Pennington’s 14-yard run tied the game with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter.
West Valley, 0-3, visits the Kenai Kardinals, also of the Northern Lights Conference, at 1 p.m. Sept. 14.
Jordan Higbee accounted for all of the scoring for Monroe Catholic, which lost for the first time this season with Friday night’s 58-24 setback against the Redington Huskies in a nonconference Division III game in Wasilla.
The 2-1 Rams, of the Aurora Conference, started the game with 15 players but lost three to injuries, including starting quarterback Isaiah Larson early in the game.
“We were competitive in the first half. We were down 16-10 at halftime but we started losing bodies after that point and we couldn’t keep up with their numbers,” Monroe head coach Marcus Cogley said by phone.
Higbee threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Frisbie with 1:59 left in the first quarter. Higbee returned a kickoff 69 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and he also kicked a 31-yard field goal.
Higbee contributed a 36-yard scoring run near the end of the third quarter. Higbee also converted three point-after kicks.
The 3-0 Huskies, of the Peninsula Conference, sealed the win in the fourth quarter with touchdowns from Javon Pau, Joshua Miller and Jaden Spaulding.
Timothy Rockey, of The Frontiersman, of Wasilla, contributed to his report. Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.