From the Sidelines: Football is the best time of year

Previous to manning the Empire sports desk, I had worked nine summers on salmon fishing boats. When football season started, I’d be on a break in Ketchikan or Sitka, whiling away my off days over pints at the Pioneer Bar or the Asylum, when the alien-green turf of an NFL preseason game would blindside me. I’d rub my unbelieving and welling peepers as the beautiful truth dawned on me in HD: It’s football season in America.

Beer tasted better and my work became easier as I diverted myself with thoughts of the NFC West outlook and the best draft strategy to dominate my fantasy league (FYI, the Taku Cutthroats are coming for a repeat title in the Southeast Superstar League). This year, off the boat and covering local sports professionally, the possibilities of yet another football season could not get me more excited.

The beginning of the prep sports season marks a return to what we do best at the Empire sports desk. With Saturday’s football opener at Adair-Kennedy Field, we’re kicking it off with an interesting one, a Juneau sport where there are currently more questions than answers.

Juneau-Douglas High School is fielding only 22 players this year but they’re experienced with 15 juniors and a returning all-conference quarterback in Bubba Stults. Thunder Mountain High School is coming off a banner year, but the Falcons graduated their do-it-all, Adrian Peterson-like running back and winner of the 2015 Best Name in Juneau Sports Award Q’on Bear-Clark (sorry, Ulyx Bohulano, you’ll have your moment).

Bear-Clark set the Juneau single-season rushing record last year, eclipsing Brian Felix’ 2003 record of 1,975 yards with 2,071 in 2015. In returning Stults from a broken back (!!!), JDHS will look to continue their pass-happy attack and contain opponents with a speedy defense.

I have no idea who is going to take the Glacier Bowl this year. What I do know is that the rivalry will be fun to watch. Check out our full season previews at the Empire online for detailed outlooks on both teams.

Covering high school sports is our first priority, so during the school year expect us to focus our energies on highlighting the exceptional prep athletes Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas are known for.

There will be pro, college and prep football games every month for the next seven months. I feel like my sports life has meaning again.

• Contact Sports and Outdoors reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or

More in Sports

TMHS senior Mallory Welling, running for team North/Southeast, competes in the 100 hurdles at the Brian Young Invitational on Saturday in Kodiak. (Photo courtesy Brandi Adams)
Local athletes qualify for Junior Olympics

Southeast track stars impress at Kodiak’s Brian Young Invitational

JDHS senior Mariah Schauwecker, junior Mila Hargrave and senior Anna Dale were selected to the All-State Tournament team Saturday at the ASAA Division II State Softball Championship at Anchorage’s Cartee Fields. (Courtesy Photo /JDHS Softball)
JDHS softball nips Sitka for state title

Dale walk-off single sends JDHS to trophy case, the mall, dinner and Cold Stone

Sitka Wolves sophomore pitcher Bryce Calhoun delivers against the Eagle River Wolves during Sitka’s 6-3 loss Saturday in the 4th/6th place game of the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships on Sitka’s Moller Field. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire)
Sitka falls to Eagle River for fourth place in state baseball tournament

Two packs of Wolves collided in the ASAA Division I State Baseball… Continue reading

Miller, Dunivin top Cameron Clark race

Memorial run brings more than 40 participants to the course

JDHS pitcher Eli Crupi prepares to deliver against Eagle River during the Crimson Bears 2-1 loss to the Wolves in an elimination game Friday at the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships on Sitka’s Moller Field. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire)
Crimson Bears end season nipped by Wolves

JDHS eliminated by Eagle River from state baseball tournament

Photo Courtesy JDHS Softball
JDHS freshman Gwen Nizich slides into home plate against Kodiak during the Crimson Bears 9-1 win over the Bears on Thursday in the ASAA Division II State Softball Tournament at Anchorage’s Cartee Fields.
JDHS splits first steps of state softball marathon

Crimson Bears girls open tournament with win over Kodiak, loss to North Pole

JDHS senior third baseman Kaleb Campbell tags out Colony freshman Kaesen Buzby on a steal attempt during the Crimson Bears 9-1 loss to the Knights on Thursday in the opening round of the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships at Sitka’s Moller Field. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire)
JDHS baseball boys open state with loss

Crimson Bears jousted by Colony Knights 9-1

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Sitka senior pitcher Ben Turner delivers against Service during the Wolves 8-7 loss to the Cougars on Thursday in the opening round of the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships at Sitka’s Moller Field.
Sitka stunned by Service in state tournament at Moller Field

The Sitka High School baseball team fell to the Service Cougars, 8-7,… Continue reading

Thunder Mountain High School recent graduate Mallory Welling, shown at last weekend’s ASAA state track and field meet, will compete at the Brian Young Invitational, Friday and Saturday, in Kodiak. (Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion)
Southeast track stars to challenge records

One final hurdle for athletes at Kodiak’s Brian Young Invitational

Most Read