Seven consecutive victories certainly say a lot about top-ranked West High and its status as the state's hottest large-school football team.
Friday night, the Eagles sauntered into the postseason and scorched more earth.
Buoyed offensively by Lui Fa'amasino's rugged running and Leroy Elliott's big-play ability, West's defense pitched its second straight shutout. The Eagles cruised to a 19-0 First National Bowl quarterfinal win over Lathrop at Anchorage Football Stadium.
West (7-2 record) now awaits the winner of Saturday's quarterfinal matchup between South and Palmer at Machetanz Field in Palmer. Last week, the Eagles blanked South to secure the Cook Inlet Conference championship.
"I have to give props to my defensive line and all our defensive players," West sophomore linebacker P.J. Seui said. "We just came here tonight focused and ready to play."
Lathrop's wide array of talent dazzled at times, but the Malemutes (5-4) could never make that decisive play against West's defense. The Eagles held Lathrop to 250 total offensive yards and forced five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles) as they continued to roll after losing their first two games of the season.
"We started 0-2 when we lost in overtime to Chugiak, and that was a team would should've beaten," Seui said. "We've simply got focused behind the idea of never going on another losing streak."
The teams traded turnovers in a somewhat sloppy opening quarter before West's offense got untracked in the second quarter. Senior quarterback Tyrone Davis whistled a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Rayford in the left-front corner of the end zone with 10 minutes, 51 seconds left in the half. The ball appeared to miss the hands of multiple players before Rayford caught it.
A few minutes later, Elliott made his presence felt.
West installed a wildcat package featuring Elliott at quarterback early in the season after junior signal-caller Sam Wedin was sidelined with a leg injury.
"I'm really a wide receiver," said Elliott, who ranked third in CIC receiving during the regular season with 32 receptions and scored nine touchdowns. "I'm not really a wildcat quarterback. But I go in there when my team needs me."
Elliott found a seam on the right side of the line and blazed a 45-yard trail to the end zone with 6:56 left in the second for his first of two touchdowns.
The 6-foot, 185-pound senior proved even more elusive on his 20-yard scoring run in the third quarter. Once he got past the line of scrimmage, he made a few nice open-field moves before sprinting to the left for the score.
"At first, I was kind of intimated by the (wildcat) role, it's a big one to do," Elliott said. "But my coaches believed in me, I stepped in and the role's been good to me."
Elliott rushed for 132 yards on six carries (22-yard average). Fa'amasino, who led the CIC with 702 yards in the regular season, turned in a 20-carry, 135-yard performance Friday.
Seui loomed large on the defensive side of the ball for West, and 6-3, 285-pound senior defensive lineman Tevita Fehoko spent a large chunk of the evening wreaking havoc in the Lathrop backfield.
Senior running back Chris Seminario led the Lathrop offense with 112 yards (70 receiving, 52 rushing). Lathrop entered the playoffs as something of an unknown to its CIC counterparts. But with a roster full of underclassmen, the Malemutes could make a lot of noise moving forward.
"We just couldn't click tonight," said Lathrop senior Devin Millington, who finished with 38 receiving yards on two catches. "But we played as hard as we possibly could."
However, Lathrop struggled to survive against the heat West is bringing to the field these days.
"Lathrop has a lot of talent, my hat's off to them," Seui said. "But our defense was just too much today."
West -- Rayford 13 pass from Davis (kick failed), 9:24
West -- Elliott 45 run (kick failed), 6:56
West -- Elliott 20 run (Ortland kick), 3:18
RUSHING -- Lathrop: Seminario 15-52, O'Neal 2-14, Cannon 2-12, Tanner 5-(-2), Maiden Jr. 5-(-15). West: Fa'amasino 20-135, Elliott 6-132, Tuilimu 1-26, Davis 9-24, Murchison 2-8, Duffy 1-(-22).
PASSING -- Lathrop: Tanner 12-27-3--148, Maiden 2-6-0--41. West: Davis 9-15-2-108.
RECEIVING -- Lathrop: Seminario 6-70, Millington 2-38, O'Neal 3-31, Cannon 2-27, Holtry 1-23. West: Rayford 4-67, Fa'amasino 2-18, Elliott 2-15, Cordero 1-8.