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 kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.

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