The cold wind led to some cold hands Friday at James Watson Patriot Pride Field at North Pole High School.
An early rain in the regular-season-ending and Division II nonconference football game between the North Pole Patriots and Kodiak Bears generated a slippery field and a combined 13 fumbles (five for Kodiak, eight for North Pole).
The elements made for an interesting and exciting contest.
“This was Kodiak weather,” Bears head coach Bryan Ellsworth said with a smile after the game.
The Patriots staged an impressive surge late in the fourth quarter but came up short, falling 16-14 to the visitors from the Northern Lights Conference.
“No matter what it takes, we always find a way to come back, no matter the score. We’re always working hard to be the best team we can be,” said running back Isaiah Harding, who was among 21 North Pole seniors honored before the final game of their high school careers.
Senior quarterback Chris Lovett epitomized of the Patriots’ work ethic Friday.
With second down and five yards to go from the 50-yard line, he dashed up the middle of the field and into the end zone with 6:33 left in the second quarter. Skyler Denny’s point-after kick cut the Bears’ lead to 9-7.
North Pole, after a missed field goal by Kodiak, capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Lovett and Denny’s ensuing PAT with 47.9 seconds left in the game.
Lovett led the Patriots in rushing with 11 carries for 53 yards, and his passes Friday included a 41-yard strike to Alex Garcia and a 35-yard delivery to Denny.
The Patriots hoped to gain one more shot at the end zone as Denny attempted an onside kick. Bears defensive back Josue Martinez clutched the ball to seal the win and end Kodiak’s season at 2-6 overall and 1-2 Northern Lights Conference.
North Pole finished at 1-7 overall and 0-3 in the Railbelt Conference.
“Hopefully, we’ll look back at this season as the start of something,” North Pole head coach Mike Hollett said. “It’s hard to go 1-7 and feel like we’re building something, but hopefully that what it is.”
Ryan Walker, who accounted for two of Kodiak’s scores and ran for a game-high 147 yards on 25 carries, said the win “means everything.”
“It’s my senior year, and it’s my last time ever playing football. It’s going to be sad not having it anymore,” said the running back and defensive end, who was among 10 Kodiak seniors who ended their high school football careers Friday.
Kodiak registered a safety with 7:28 left in the first quarter for a 2-0 lead. Walker’s 3-yard run helped increase the lead to 9-0 later in the first quarter.
Walker scored the eventual game-winner with a 10-yard run with 48.2 seconds before halftime. Fellow senior Moises Cruz converted both point-after kicks for Kodiak.