Jace Henry

Lathrop's Jace Henry gains yardage on a quarterback keeper during the Division II Semi-Final high school football playoff game against Eagle River on Oct. 12 at  Lathrop High School. Henry rushed for 223 yards and three scores Saturday against Soldotna in the title game in Anchorage. Eric Engman/News-Miner


Lathrop quarterback Jace Henry was named the 2019-2020 Gatorade Alaska Football Player of the Year on Friday for his performance during the 2019 football season.

The award is given to an athlete who demonstrates outstanding athletic excellence, high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field.

“It was a great thing to wake up to this morning,” Henry said Friday evening.

“I’ve worked so hard to get here and for everything to just start clicking it’s been amazing.”

Henry rushed for 1,573 yards and 23 touchdowns and passed for 1,296 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season, helping the Division II Malemutes to a 5-4 record and their first state championship game since 1985.

In addition to his offensive success, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior also recorded 16 tackles, punted for a 36.8-yard average and maintained a 3.95 grade point average in the classroom.

“Jace is a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Malemute head coach Luke Balash said in a Friday news release. 

“He had to earn his way up through our system. He carried the defense for us as a junior, and this year he carried the offense.”     

The quarterback also admitted his hard work isn’t the only thing responsible for his impressive statistics.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do all the things I was able to do without my teammates fully buying in and pulling their weight,” he said.

The senior isn’t sure where he will be in the fall, but he says college football is definitely in his future and potentially a transition to tight end. He also says the Lathrop coaching staff has been invaluable in helping him plan for next year. 

In addition to playing football, the senior is also excited to study chemistry at the college level.

“I’ve always been a huge math and science guy,” he said.

“At Lathrop I took regular chem and then (Advanced Placement) chem the next year … That’s definitely where my heart is at.”

As part of the award, Henry has the opportunity to give a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing. 

He isn’t sure what specific organization he will donate to, but he wants the money to go toward local football in Fairbanks.

“Especially for kids that can’t afford to play football, they definitely deserve the opportunity to be able to play. It helps people out in all aspects of life,” he said.

This award makes Henry eligible for the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award, which will be announced later this month.

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.