FAIRBANKS—This year’s Dog Bowl win required a few more aches for the West Valley High School football team.
The Wolfpack held on Friday night for a 13-12 victory over the Lathrop Malemutes in the annual crosstown feud and the second Railbelt Conference game of the season for the squads.
“I hurt a little bit; but in a game like that, you don’t come out of it sore unless you put your all into it,” said Wolfpack senior fullback JC Cummings.
“But a win like this is what you play for,” added Cummings, who scored the game’s first touchdown and finished the night with 43 yards on 16 carries. Senior teammate Dominick Anderson led the Wolfpack with 46 yards on 12 carries.
For the seniors of West Valley (1-1 Railbelt, 2-1 overall), the win also meant that they will have ended their careers celebrating four straight Dog Bowl titles.
“It’s good to know that leaving West Valley, West Valley will still be on top in this town,” said senior utility player Larenzo Graham, who provided the eventual game-wining touchdown in the third quarter.
Lathrop’s seniors were aiming for their first Dog Bowl honor and to erase the memories of the Wolfpack overwhelming the Malemutes 60-0 in last year’s game at West Valley.
The Malemutes’ quest on Friday came up short on a two-point conversion attempt after Lathrop staged consecutive scoring drives in the second half.
Lathrop (0-2, 1-2) trimmed West Valley’s lead to 13-6 in the third quarter with second down and 25 yards to go from its 42-yard line. The Malemutes faked a sweep and senior quarterback Gabriel Cunningham delivered a 42-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Derrick O’Neal with 5:47 left in the third.
“It was all about confidence,” O’Neal said. “I never thought my defender would bite on that play. I was supposed to run a post (route), but instead I had so much confidence that I needed to run that fly route. I did and I scored for the team.”
Cunningham finished the night with 174 yards on 10 of 21 attempts with two interceptions, and O’Neal has accounted for all five of Cunningham’s scoring strikes this season.
“I believe in myself, I believe in my team and I believe in God also,” said O’Neal, who finished Friday with four catches for 120 yards, giving him 10 receptions for 258 yards for the season.
“I prayed for this day,” O’Neal said. “For a sophomore to be up on varsity, I want to put the team on my back instead of having the seniors work their butts off. I also want to be the best out there.”
Chris Seminario, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound junior, put the Malemutes on his back with 7:22 left in the fourth quarter, churning out a 9-yard run to make it 13-12. Seminario finished with 10 carries for 35 yards and senior Kaelen Lee led the Malemutes with 13 carries for 44 yards.
On the two-point conversion attempt, Cunningham rolled out to the left to pass but the ball deflected off of a series of hands.
“We’ve got to work on special teams and we’ve got to work on a lot,” Lathrop head coach Rusty Ham said, “but we’re getting there.”
The Wolfpack carried a 7-0 lead into halftime after Cummings steamed up the middle of the field on a 3-yard run with 4:38 left in the second quarter.
Graham, with 7:42 left in the third quarter, also powered his way up the middle on a 3-yard burst for the game-winner.
“I saw a hole and I definitely went for it,” Graham, who had six carries for 21 yards, said.
Riley Hinz’s point-after attempt struck the bottom of the crossbar following Graham’s fourth rushing touchdown and sixth overall of the season. Hinz had converted his kick following Cummings’ touchdown.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.