Cross-town football rivals kick off season

Juneau’s cross-town rivals take to the football field Saturday (Aug. 13). The first game of the season pits the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears and the Thunder Mountain Falcons against each other. The Falcons are just in their third year; the Bears’ football program is more than two decades old.

Though they play in different conferences, they’re starting the season in what Bears’ head coach Rich Sjoross says may be the most emotional game:

“There are so many story lines you could look at, with kids that are related to each other or have played with each other for years and now for the first time at the high school level they’re playing against each other. Coaching staff that used to work together is now split up at different schools,” Sjoross says. “And both teams are coming off a pretty successful year last year and have pretty high expectations this year, so I think that’s going to add some drama to it as well.”

Most of the Falcon’s coaching staff once coached the Crimson Bears. Some families have kids at both high schools. When Juneau’s second high school opened three years ago, the Falcons ended up in the small Southeast Conference with Sitka and Ketchikan, while Juneau stayed in the Railbelt conference with larger schools.

Saturday night’s game is a shake-down, says TMHS head coach Bill Byour. And he expects Bears to give the Falcons a real fight.

“My kids are going to come out and play hard too. But they’ve (Crimson Bears) worked together many more years. That program has been in place, it’s a quality program, so I expect the first meeting between the two schools is going to be a battle. It’s going to be a good game,” Byouer says.

The junior varsity teams kick off at 5 p.m. at Reilly Ritchie Memorial Field at Adair Kennedy Park. The varsity rivalry starts at 8 p.m.

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