Lathrop's RJ Henry runs the ball during a game against Thunder Mountain at Lathrop High School on Saturday, September 10, 2016. ERIN CORNELIUSSEN/NEWS-MINER

Lathrop's RJ Henry runs the ball during a game against Thunder Mountain at Lathrop High School on Saturday, September 10, 2016. ERIN CORNELIUSSEN/NEWS-MINER

Lathrop silences TMHS

  • By BOB ELEY
  • Monday, September 12, 2016 4:06pm
  • Sports

FAIRBANKS — The next three games on the schedule are critical for the Lathrop High School football team, so the Malemutes used Saturday’s contest against the Thunder Mountain Falcons as a tuneup for the task ahead.

Lathrop turned in a solid defensive effort, played well offensively in the first half and got another dazzling punt return from RJ Henry to claim a 35-0 nonconference victory.

Five different Lathrop players — Henry, Marshea Kent, Kailen Martin, Joshua Hernandez and Tyler Farris — scored touchdowns and Zach Kosa tacked on five extra points to account for Lathrop’s scoring.

“I was proud of our defense for playing all four quarters today,” Lathrop coach Luke Balash said after the Malemutes limited the Falcons to four first downs, 78 yards rushing and eight yards passing.

“We’ve kind of fallen apart on the back end the past couple of weeks, so it was important for us to play an entire game like that with the schedule we have coming up,” Balash added.

The Malemutes, 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Railbelt Conference, have three conference games remaining on the schedule — Friday at Wasilla; Sept. 24 at home against Colony and Oct. 1 at West Valley.

“Wasilla is always tough, Colony has one of the top two or three teams in the state and West Valley is a rivalry game,” Balash said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do to get ready for those games.”

In Saturday’s game against Thunder Mountain, Balash was especially pleased with the play of linebackers Wyatt Story and David Shepetko.

“Both of those guys have stepped in and just keep getting better,” Balash said. “I’m really proud of those guys.”

The Lathrop defense recovered a pair of fumbles to set up first-half touchdowns and the Malemutes recovered an onside kick to set up a third TD. Henry did the rest as he scored on a dazzling 70-yard punt return, dancing his way up the sideline in front of home crowd.

“He’s made one of those plays in almost every game this season,” Balash said. “That’s just what he does and that’s why a lot of colleges are looking at him as a return specialist.”

Henry’s punt return came with 1:36 left in the first half and gave Lathrop a 28-0 lead at the break.

Lathrop got on the scoreboard with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

After recovering a fumble on the Thunder Mountain 35, Lathrop took seven plays to find paydirt as Kent ran two yards for the score.

Thunder Mountain fumbled on the first play after the kickoff and the Malemutes went 33 yards in five plays with Hernandez completing a 12-yard scoring pass to Martin to cap the drive.

After recovering the onside kick, Lathrop mounted a 10-play drive covering 44 yards to make the score 21-0 with 11:13 remaining in the second quarter.

Lathrop’s only touchdown in the second half came with 2:39 left in the second quarter when Tyler Farris scored on a 1-yard run.

“I thought we played well offensively in the first half, but we’ve still got a lot of things to fine-tune this week,” Balash said.

The loss dropped Thunder Mountain to 3-2 on the season The Falcons host the North Pole Patriots on Friday in a Southeast Conference game in Juneau.

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