The Lathrop Malamutes repeat as Div. II State Football Champions
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For the second year in a row, the Lathrop Malamutes beat the Soldotna Stars to win the Alaska School Activities Association Division II State Football Championship, this time prevailing by a score of 21-18.
It was a battle of unbeatens, with both the Malamutes and the Stars coming into the game without a loss on their records. Both teams were very familiar with each other, making for an exciting back-and-forth game.
The Stars started the scoring after getting an interception, and with great field position, Collin Peck punched it in.
The most impactful play of the game came in the first quarter when senior Tyler Clooten rolled over the defender making the tackle. Everyone thought that he was down, but Clooten kept running all the way to the end zone. After the play, the refs came together and ruled that he did not touch the ground and the touchdown stood.
“Feels like everything came together for this one big moment,” Clooten said. ”We lost so many people last year, just rebuilding and still having such a strong team. Insane, I can’t explain how I feel right now.”
After that, it was like watching a heavyweight title fight. Both teams were throwing haymakers, but no one would give an inch.
With the game on the line at the end, it was fourth down and goal for the Stars on the one-yard line with under a minute to play, trailing 21-12. The Stars converted the touchdown and had to go for an onside kick.
The onside kick was a good one but went right into the sure hands of senior Jacob Johnson who fell on the ball and iced the game.
“Man it’s a great feeling. I almost want to cry right because these are my teammates that I have been playing with since we were young. Me and Tyler Clooten, we have been playing together since we were in second grade. It is just a great feeling to win with my brothers,” senior Kaine Clayton said.
The Malamutes completed the undefeated season, finishing a perfect 11-0 and outscoring opponents 477 to 81. What makes the accomplishment even sweeter for Lathrop is that they lost a ton of seniors last year who helped them win.
“A whole bunch of people were doubting us. A lot of people, they were like oh you guys are losing all your seniors. We just worked in silence, stayed motivated, put in the work in the off season and then came out with the outcome,” senior Earl Parker said.
Lathrop will be losing quite a few of their senior stars again this season but they have shown that they can continue to contend year after year.
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