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North Pole football earns emotional 36-0 win while honoring #36

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:27 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - It was an emotional day at Patriot Pride Stadium Saturday as the North Pole football program - and community as a whole - mourns the loss of one of their own.

It was the team’s first game since 2020 North Pole High graduate and former Patriot star running back Isaiah Harding tragically died in a car accident last weekend at the age of 20. The team honored him by holding 36 seconds of silence prior to the game - the number he wore while carving up defenses in the red, white and blue uniform - while his jerseys, signed by former teammates and current Patriots, were presented to his parents.

“Isaiah was a kid that you loved to play with, loved to play for, loved to coach with, loved to coach for and he was going to great things in our community,” head coach Mike Hollett said, who coached Harding at North Pole. “Our community is better that he was in it, that he impacted it. The people that he was around are better because of him and I don’t know if you can say anything else about a guy.

“We will miss him. it felt good to hit 36 for him, but his values will carry with us. He left a program in a better spot than when he found it.”

Coming off a beautiful and tearful ceremony, the opening kickoff against the Kenai Kardinals that followed might just say it all. The kick landed in the hands of senior Camren Hyson, who received some blocks down field and dashed down the sideline for an opening kickoff touchdown. You can’t make this stuff up.

All three facets of the game came together in the 36-0 victory, as both the running and passing game were clicking on offense, the defense forced multiple turnovers and pitched a shutout, while the special teams had a kickoff return for a touchdown and a blocked punt.

Via Skipps ran for over 100 yards and two touchdowns, including a 69-yard burst that gave North Pole its fourth score of the game. Quarterback Devon Clark plunged into the end zone for six, while finding Josh Dutra on a 25-yard strike through the air for another touchdown in the win.

A day to remember as the team and community remember Isaiah Harding.

With the win, North Pole (2-0) is ranked fourth in the latest Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network Poll in Division II/III, but will have their toughest test yet when they visit #2 Eagle River Saturday, who is coming off a 50-0 win over the Houston Hawks.

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