The Thunder Mountain High School football team is about to go combative against the visiting Kodiak Bears, Saturday at 7 p.m. on TMHS Falcons Field.
“We need this win to make our program more respectable,” TMHS coach Bill Byouer said. “Beating a quality program that is ranked will be a strong step in that direction.”
The Falcons (2-1), ranked fourth in the latest Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network poll, will be wearing combat-themed uniforms against the fifth-ranked Bears (2-1).
The uniforms are one of many planned activities that are part of the FALCONS CARE - MILITARY GAME.
The 2nd annual FALCONS CARE game is to honor all branches of the military service. TMHS faculty and students encourage all military members, veterans and their families attend.
All proceeds and donations from the game will go to the foundation “Building for America’s Bravest,” that will help local U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas McRae, 30, who enlisted at age 18 and served three tours of duty in Iraq and was on his second tour in Afghanistan when injured in a road side blast. McRae and parents Tim and Carolee Ryan will be at the game.
“We are completely humbled,” Byouer said. “We are not just here to take the money to play football. The community has always given to local sports programs in town, now we want to give something back. No matter what we raise, it will not be enough. It will not be even close to be enough to say ‘thank you’ to those who risk their lives or have risked their lives for all of us. And to have Tom and his mother at the game, I am just completely humbled.”
McRae was wounded on January 16, 2012, when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded under him while he was investigating a threat on a Marine base in the Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. McRae lost both legs, left arm and right eye.
The fundraiser proceeds will go towards the purchase of a Smart Home for McRae. Smart Homes are custom designed, on a case-by-case basis, and specially adapted to address the individual needs of the most severely injured U.S. military personnel to allow quality of life and independence that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.
“We plan on putting on a really good show on the field,” Byouer said. “Our team is really into this game, and we want all of Juneau to come and get into it as well. This is one of those special things that have no school boundaries, no mascot differences and no opposite uniform colors. Whether you are from this school or another school, we are all just the same community. We need to support everybody.”
The varsity game begins at 7 p.m. but activities begin long before.
The Falcons junior varsity game (4-6 p.m.), which Sitka’s varsity willingly accepted to play, will feature announcements of the special events, products, auctions and guests to follow. The National Guard will display HUMVs and night vision goggles and the Coast Guard a small station boat.
Prior to the start of the varsity game all military members, veterans and all family members will be asked to step to the front and be honored during the National Anthem.
“All the military branches and local recruiting offices know about the event,” TMHS Peregrine Booster Club president Lisa Corcoran said. “We want to encourage all vets to come out. Or if you are a parent of someone fighting over seas than come out to show support. The Peregrine board and coaching staff got together on this. We don’t want to just take from the community, we want to give back to an organization or individual that can use some help.”
The TMHS pep band will play a four-sax version of the anthem and cheerleaders will be presenting flags. McRae’s mother, Carolee Ryan, will lead the coin toss.
“We are really excited to be at the game,” Carolee said. “The support has been overwhelming.”
At halftime the pep band will play military service songs, cheerleaders will perform for the military and for McRae, and Representative Cathy Munoz will make a special presentation.
Special products include blue camo thought bracelets that say “Falcons Care,” multi-color cammo bandanas, dog tags and lollipops, and helium balloons to mark with the name of a service member or veteran. Auction items include game balls and a special camo jersey. Throughout the game Guardian Flight will help throw blue stress footballs to the crowd.
On the field, the Falcons will be playing the Northern Lights Conference’s top team (tied with Soldotna). The Falcons (and junior varsity) will wear special camo-themed numbers and letters on their blue uniforms and camo socks.
Kodiak is coming off a 49-7 loss to the undefeated Railbelt Conference’s Palmer Moose (3-0) while the Falcons dismantled Ketchikan 55-21. Josh Tupou was selected to receive the Coaches Award after last weekend’s game according to Byouer, who also praised Falcons’ lineman Austin Thomas for his defensive play.
“My guys are ready,” Byouer said. “I am very impressed with how dedicated they are and how hard they have been working. We are looking forward to the challenge and are looking for a win this Saturday. Each week we are coming closer to where we want to be, and that is a state title, and Kodiak is the next step in our way of getting that taken care of.”