Lathrop football throttles West Valley in season opener

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 8:09 PM AKDT
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The cross-town rivalry between Lathrop and West Valley high schools typically clash at the end of the season for the annual “Dog Bowl”. However, like many others, they had to adjust to current situations presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the Malemutes and Wolfpack met in Week 1 on Lathrop’s home turf Saturday.

While fielding the opening kick-off, West Valley fumbled, immediately turning the ball over to Lathrop. The first play of the game set the tone for the rest of the contest.

This was the start of a triumphant, 57-0 victory for the Malemutes. Lathrop found the end zone eight different times, while also registering a safety on the defensive side.

It was West Valley head coach David DeVaughn’s debut with the program, as he and the team become accustom to each other.

Lathrop quarterback Jarren Littell had big shoes to fill, and did not take long to prove he was ready to take over the keys to the offense. Littell replaces Jace Henry, the 2020 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year, who will be playing for Dartmouth’s Division I program.

Littell threw four passing touchdowns and led the Malemutes to eight scoring drives. His first touchdown went to one of his new weapons, Dean Silva, who leaped over a West Valley defender to make the catch in the back of the end zone. The junior quarterback continued to spread the wealth, tossing touchdowns to Andre’ Williams, Eddie Coleman and Jacob Johnson en route to victory.

“Honestly, everything was going right,” said Littell after the game. “The run game was working, I didn’t get sacked once, the linemen were doing their job, receivers were getting open; they were making it easy for me, so shout out to my teammates.”

In addition to Williams’ receiving touchdown, he also punched in the first score of the season with a TD in the opening quarter. Senior D’Angelo Tiapula put football fans on notice, playing a complete game on both sides of the field. Tiapula found the end zone on about a 70-yard rush, while also hauling in an interception in the first half to disrupt the Wolfpacks’ possession.

“It felt really great, it is something that we shouldn’t take for granted,” said Tiapula of being able to take the field. “We should be thankful that we get to play, every chance we get.”

From the opening kick-off, Lathrop hit the gas and never lifted their foot. Lathrop head coach Luke Balash emphasized to his players that they may never know when it will be the last time they can take the field.

“Coach said ‘play this game like it is your last, because we didn’t know if we would have another one,’” Williams said after the game Saturday. “Soon as we were on the field, step on, you’re running thinking ‘this is your last game, so you got to do whatever you can.‘”

That mindset is something that they will have to take with them if the season progresses.

On Monday, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District confirmed that a player involved in Saturday’s game between Lathrop and West Valley has tested positive for COVID-19. The two schools cannot participate in any football activities until September 5 while under a 14-day quarantine. The school district said in a press release, “At this time, football at the other district high schools will continue and will follow current safety protocols.”

A press conference held by FNSBSD is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Continue to monitor for updates.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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