Juneau and its football program will be getting some big-time attention.
NFL Films will be in town this week for a follow-up to a story from 1995 about the then-young football program at Juneau-Douglas High School.
“It was kind of the early years of the program,” Juneau School District Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett said. “They were playing on dirt fields.”
NFL Films will be filming a full-contact Juneau Alumni Football game at 7 p.m. Friday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field, and will interview a number of the alumni featured in the original 1995 segment.
Alumni Trevor League, Tommy Penrose, Andy Boman, Gary Locke, Corey Baxter and Chad Bentz will all be spotlighted, said Juneau Huskies coach Rich Sjoroos.
“They’re starting with (Bentz), and do a day-in-the-life,” Sjoroos said. “They’re going to meet him at his house, follow him to work, spend the morning with him and then interview those alumni guys. And then they’re going to interview some current players. So they want to tie it all together, sort of the evolution of Juneau football over the last 25 years.”
“Football in America,” the NFL Films program that featured JDHS football in 1995, looked at the challenges of developing a football program in Alaska, like having to play on dirt fields.
There will be plenty of changes over the years in Juneau for the NFL film crew to cover.
In the almost quarter century since the first NFL Films coverage, the district added Thunder Mountain High School, merged the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain football programs, settled on the Huskies as a joint mascot for the team and incorporated Yadaa.at Kalé into JDHS’ name.
Sjoroos, who was hired in December, was the mastermind behind the alumni game, which he said has already raised over $10,000 in ticket sales. Sjoroos said he got the idea for the fundraiser and community event after watching “Old Man Football,” a documentary about a Texas football program that held an alumni game to honor a deceased former player.
After the school district approved the event, Sjoroos said the alumni immediately bought into the idea. By the beginning of last month, 70 former players signed up, and Sjoroos divided them into two teams (“The Stars” and “The Legends”).
“We’ve got a father-son combo that’s playing, we’ve got brothers and relatives that this will be their first time ever playing on the field together,” Sjoroos said. “So there’s just a lot of unique scenarios and things with the guys that signed up and everybody had different reasons for wanting to do it.”
Baxter, a 1996 JDHS graduate who is pictured on the cover of the NFL movie, said he was the first person to register for the game back in March. The former Crimson Bear said he wanted to support the program and see it prosper again.
“I think a lot of people just want to come out and help, get the program back in order,” he said. “Since after they split the two high schools, both programs kind of went down because of fundraising.”
Baxter will serve as one of coaches of “The Stars” after rupturing his Achilles tendon during the second team practice.
“I was the first one to sign up and I’m the first one out,” he said.
One the players he’ll coach is 30-year-old Ryan Fagerstrom, who hasn’t played competitively since 2011, when he was a senior on the Black Hills State University Yellow Jackets. Playing in the alumni game was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, Fagerstrom said.
“There’s something about putting on the pads with a bunch of guys and getting out on the field and spending some time together,” he said. “Kind of getting away from that adult life.”
The 2006 JDHS graduate also wants to see the program rebound.
“Hopefully (Sjoroos) can work his magic again and get us back to those glory days where Juneau was in the state championship and state finals every year,” Fagerstrom said.
Alumni dance cheer teams will also be participating. A tailgate party will take place from 5-7 p.m. at the field and feature various food vendors like The Dawg House and Juneau Pizza.
The Juneau Huskies play in their first home game Aug. 24 against Antelope Union from Arizona.
Know and Go
What: Juneau Alumni Football Game
Where: Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field
When: 7 p.m. (tailgate party starts at 5 p.m.)
Cost: Adult advance tickets $16 or $20 at the door. Student, seniors and veterans tickets $15. Tickets are available online at https://sites.google.com/view/juneau-huskies-football.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Ben Hohenstatt contributed reporting to this article.