Tuesday night’s game between North Pole and Eielson wasn’t even supposed to happen. Not after the Ravens had to forfeit Friday’s match due to insufficient roster numbers.
The North Pole Patriots wanted one last home game for their seniors and to hold a formal Senior Night. Eielson just wanted one more game. When the Ravens finally had enough players to field a squad, Patriots head coach Michael Hollett, the football team, and numerous alumni and parents volunteered to spend more than three hours clearing snow Monday night in order to play the game Tuesday.
It shouldn’t have been possible, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of the North Pole community, it was. The Patriots football team rewarded the community with a resounding victory.
The Tuesday night game at North Pole went to a running clock in the second half after the Patriots took a five possession lead at halftime. The Pats ultimately came away with a 50-6 victory.
The fact that the game happened at all was something worth celebrating, however.
“It’s just unreal,” said North Pole’s Josh Dutra, one of the many seniors honored Tuesday night. “This community is amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.
It may seem curious that North Pole decided to play a game Tuesday when they have to travel to play Soldotna for a playoff game on Friday. Having that special moment for the seniors was worth the risk for the Patriots.
“This is only our fifth game in a season in which we’d normally be at eight,” said Hollett. “Putting in the extra work (plowing the field), the community showing up, the kids showing up, everyone wanted to play this game, including Eielson. It was important to everyone to just play as much football as possible.”
While it took a while for the game to come together after the cancellation, it didn’t take long for the scoring to start once kickoff came around. Less than four minutes in, senior Nic Clark took the handoff up the middle and was pushed into the end zone from four yards out by his offensive line to put the Pats up 8-0 after the two-point conversion.
On Eielson’s first possession, Gabe Hollett came up big with a strip-sack and the ball bounced through the hands of a few Patriots before settling into the hands of senior Kaden Bostwick. Bostwick proceeded to run the ball back to Eielson’s 15 yardline where North Pole only needed one play to score. Quarterback Devon Clark saw Bostwick in the end zone and wanted to reward his turnover with a touchdown, so he did with the 15-yard scoring strike to make it 14-0 NPHS.
Eielson’s offense started to pick up steam the next possession as they marched all the way into the Patriots’ red zone. Facing a fourth down, however, they fumbled once again and the ball was recovered by Daniel Conley of North Pole. Senior Camren Hyson then came up big on the ensuing possession with a seven-yard touchdown run to make it 22-0 Pats.
With 2:35 left in the opening half, Clark hit Dutra for an eight-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 28-0. After senior Reece Walters recovered the onside kick for North Pole, it was deja vu as Clark again hit Dutra for a touchdown pass, except this one was from 40 yards out to make it 34-0.
After Eielson went for it on fourth down deep in their own territory and came up short, Hyson scored on a 15-yard run with 18 seconds before halftime to make it 42-0.
The game moved to a running clock and the starters took a seat for North Pole after that. Eielson wasn’t about to get shutout, though, as Landen Salley scored on a 20-yard touchdown run midway through the third to give the Ravens six. Marcus Lipari of North Pole scored for North Pole on a 32-yard run in the fourth quarter to give the game it’s final score.
Eielson’s season is now over while North Pole will play at SOHI this Friday at 4 p.m.