NORTH POLE— The “turnaround game” at James Watson Patriot Pride Field didn’t turn in the favor of the host North Pole Patriots on Saturday afternoon.
However, the Patriots threatened the Wasilla Warriors late in the fourth quarter before falling 28-12 in the game, which was originally scheduled for Friday night at Wasilla High School. The game was moved to North Pole because of poor air quality caused by wildfires in the Matanuska Valley.
North Pole’s players and coaches headed back home Friday after arriving in Wasilla and learning of the postponement. The Wasilla players got on a bus to the Interior on Friday rather than play under the lights of their home stadium.
The 300-plus mile bus trips didn’t affect either team’s preparation for the rescheduled nonconference game.
“We just wanted it, we wanted to win,’’ North Pole senior quarterback Chris Lovett said after the game.
“We stay ready so we don’t have to get ready,’’ he added.
Said Wasilla senior quarterback Colton Lindquist, “We were all doing our own thing and then the coach (Wasilla head coach Ken Ottinger) sent out an e-mail saying we had to come up here.
“So we all just said ‘OK, coach,” and we started coming up here. We just wanted to play football.”
North Pole, of the Division II Railbelt Conference, was hoping to end a 10-game skid that goes back to last season.
The Patriots were coming off a 32-12 season-opening and home loss on Aug. 16 against the Eielson Ravens, last year’s Division III state champions.
“You can tell there’s some little things that we’re missing, ‘’ North Pole head coach Mike Hollett said to his team during its postgame meeting on the field.
“You can see that we don’t know how to win a football game yet. We don’t quite know how to finish a football game yet.
He added, “There’s a lot of positives to take away. We had some young kids really stepping up and playing well for us.”
Two positives was North Pole’s defense intercepted Wasilla quarterbacks seven times, and Lovett passed for more than a hundred yards (126 yards on 7-for-18 passing with one interception).
Lovett also accounted for both touchdowns and drove North Pole to the Wasilla 1-yard line with time winding down in the game.
He tied the game at 6 with 1:37 left in the first quarter while avoiding disaster.
North Pole had second down and 5 yards to go from the Warriors 8-yard line. Lovett was in a shotgun position when he fumbled the snap but he recovered it and bolted straight up the field and into the end zone.
With 2:48 left in the third quarter, he charged into the end zone from four yards out to make it 28-12.
North Pole had first and goal at the Wasilla 1 with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter
Wasilla’s defense, during the first three downs of the series, pushed North Pole back to the 8-yard line. With fourth and goal from the 8 and 1:30 left in the game, Lovett lined a pass to a diving and open Keaton Odle in the right side of the end zone. The ball, however, struck off his hands.
The Warriors, of the Division I Railbelt Conference, took over on downs and improved to 2-0 on the season. Wasilla was coming off a 39-32 nonconference win Aug. 16 over the visiting West Valley Wolfpack, also of the Division II Railbelt.
Lindquist was a dual threat for the Warriors, as he amassed more than 100 yards each with his arm and legs.
“I’m more of a running back. This is like one of my first years playing QB,’’ Lindquist said. “I think I’m more of a running person.”
He threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns during a 7-for-12 and four-interception afternoon.
Lindquist connected with Kahuna Patterson a 12-yard touchdown for the game’s first score with 10:36 left in the opening quarter. He found an open Irving Rodriguez for a 67-yard scoring strike with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
On the ground, Lindquist churned out 211 yards on 21 carries, a touchdown and a pair of two-point conversion runs.
He put the Warriors ahead 20-6 with a 2-yard run and the ensuing two-point conversion with 7:58 left in the third quarter. He provided the other two-pointer after Rodriguez’s touchdown catch.
Warriors running back Hunter Hayes finished with 131 yards on 17 carries and he contributed a 24-yard scoring scamper with 2:33 left in the second quarter for a 12-6 lead for the visitors.
The game was rich in penalties, as the teams combined for 180 yards in infractions. North Pole was assessed 12 penalties for 75 yards and Wasilla was whistled for 13 for 105 yards.