Monroe upsets West Valley in first-ever football meeting
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -
A few short weeks ago, Monroe Catholic, among other football programs in the area, were uncertain whether they would play another game in 2020. Since then, the Rams have made history in back-to-back weeks, ignited when they defeated the Eielson Ravens for the first time in school history.
On Saturday, Monroe faced Division II’s West Valley in the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two schools. In Monroe’s 13-year football history, they have never squared off against the Wolfpack, but given the uncertain, travel-restricted season, the pieces finally fell into place.
The unwavered Rams scored 26 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 40-20 victory in one of the biggest wins in program history. Senior Garren Nicholson stamped his name all over this one, scoring five touchdowns, including 57 and 47-yard dashes to the end zone.
“We have been getting a chance to play their JV, but it just feels really good to stick it to their varsity like that,” said Nicholson after the win. “We’ve been playing together since 8th grade, we have been ready since 8th grade.”
Quarterback Shaun Conwell found Nicholson through the air for one of those scores, while also muscling his way across the goal line for a rushing touchdown. Knotted at 20 at the half, West Valley took the ensuing second half kickoff 85-yards to the end zone for the lead, their final lead of the game. After Conwell’s rushing touchdown, Monroe continued to pile it on, resulting in the Rams doubling West Valley’s score.
“I am just proud of them, just look at their toughness, man,” Monroe head coach Kyle Allison said. “They’re going to carry this memory on for years and years. 10 years from now they’re going to see each other and they’re going to talk about this year, that is what I’m happy about."
West Valley/Monroe History
Although it was their first meeting on the football field, the two sides are familiar with one another. Last July, a West Valley football training incident at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center Pool left three students hospitalized. Subsequently, seven assistant coaches who were present at the incident were suspended by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, including current Rams head coach Kyle Allison. Monroe, a private school that operates outside of the school district, hired Allison this year along with other coaches who were suspended to join the staff. Allison, a former player and coach at West Valley, got a second chance with Monroe, where they happened to play West Valley his first year with the program.
“Torn,” Allison said to describe his emotions. “Coming over here and bringing my experience with Coach [Shaun] Conwell [Sr.], Brenden Foster, Coach Tallon [Shreve] and just the parents, the support, everybody coming together to make sure we play football, it is just a big family at Monroe, it is great.”
Former Eielson head coach David DeVaughn now leads the West Valley Wolfpack. With the transfer of coaches to Monroe came the transfer of a number of former West Valley players who are now enrolled at Monroe, including quarterback Shaun Conwell.
“Oh it’s big, it is big,” said the Monroe senior and former West Valley player. “I am not going to point any names, but it just feels really good, especially after what they did. Coming here, playing for Monroe, dominating like that, it makes me happy, I know it makes my coaches happy that have been here since day one, and my teammates happy.”
Monroe (4-0) remains undefeated on the season and will look to punch their ticket to the DIII state playoffs with a win over Eielson on Friday at 6 p.m. at Kiwanis Field. West Valley looks to keep their playoff hopes alive when they host Lathrop at 7 p.m. on Friday for the annual Dog Bowl.
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