There was a lot riding on Thursday night’s football game between Lathrop and North Pole.
The winner would claim victory in the Mayors’ Bowl, a playoff spot, and get the inside track for a conference championship. With North Pole undefeated and Lathrop’s only loss coming to East Anchorage, there was plenty of excitement in the air.
By the time Thursday night came to an end, all of the excitement was on the Lathrop sideline as they hoisted the Mayors’ Bowl trophy in victory.
The Malemute defense held North Pole scoreless until the final three minutes of the game and the rushing duo of Andre Williams and Tyler Clooten led the offense to a 35-14 victory over the Patriots. The win moved Lathrop to 5-1 as the Malemutes handed North Pole their first loss of the season (3-1).
North Pole has been noted for their powerful rushing attack this season, but it was Williams (76 yards, three touchdowns) and Clooten (93 yards, one touchdown) who put up the dynamic running effort on Thursday.
“I think as we get more confidence that helps our mindset and mindset is everything,” said Williams. “We get bigger heads, but we get better heads too so we can beat bigger teams.”
As for the Patriots, it was a disappointing result on their home turf, but there was still plenty to celebrate. Kodiak informed North Pole they’d be forfeiting their game with the Patriots that had previously been scheduled for this Tuesday. As such, North Pole is heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Even Thursday night, the Patriots scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes with a running clock, never giving up.
“At the end of the day we just tell (the kids) we’re proud,” said North Pole head coach Michael Hollett. “We’re proud of them and we’re proud to be here and we love them. Losing sucks and nobody likes losing, but if it helps us get better than it’s worth going through.”
The game was exciting from the start as the Patriots kicked and recovered an onside kick to begin the game. They were ultimately forced to punt, however, and Lathrop twice converted on fourth down on the ensuing possession before Williams scored on a one-yard touchdown run to end the drive. The two-point conversion was good, and Lathrop went up 8-0.
Neither team scored again until midway through the second quarter when Clooten punched it in from one yard out to extend the lead to 15-0. North Pole was putting a decent drive together the next possession, but quarterback Devon Clark threw an interception to Kaine Clayton which helped set up Williams’ 35-yard scoring run with 33 seconds to go until halftime. With that, it was 22-0 Malemutes.
Lathrop quarterback Jarren Littell and wide receiver Dean Silva must’ve been jealous of all the rushing scores, so the pair decided to link up late in the third quarter for a 24-yard scoring pass to put the Malemutes up 29-0.
In the fourth quarter, Williams’ third touchdown run of the game sent things to a running clock, but the Patriots refused to give up. Clark threw two touchdowns in the final three minutes to Josh Dutra, including one with no time left on the clock. Thanks to a successful two-point conversion run by Clark on the first score, the Pats ended the game with 14 points.
With North Pole winning by forfeit against Kodiak, they move to 4-1 with the regular season finale scheduled for noon Oct. 2. Lathrop’s regular season finale is set for 5 p.m. that same night as they host West Valley in the Dog Bowl.
Contact sports editor Hart Pisani at email@example.com or 459-7530.