In every football offseason, whether it be Pop Warner or the NFL, all organizations hope to bring in new talent.
And in the case of Thunder Mountain football, a young, up-and-coming program on the rise, there is a paramount placed on acquiring new players.
And the Falcons have done just that.
While new kids might join the mix every season, it's atypical for these student-athletes to come from outside the state of Alaska. But this season, the Thunder Mountain varsity roster welcomed four "outsiders" into the fold, all of whom are expected to contribute to the success of this year's squad.
Rising senior wide receiver and defensive end Donald Stokes, a transfer from San Diego, Calif., might be fairly new to Juneau, but he doesn't lack confidence in his abilities or those of his teammates.
"My hands are magnets and I catch the ball every time," he said. "They usually pass it to me and Sean (Niumataevalu) because we catch the ball. We're magnets."
Niumataevalu, a rising junior from Compton, Calif., laughed after hearing Stokes' words, but the 6-foot, 180-pounder said he'll leave the boasting to his new teammate.
"See, Donald likes to talk to other people, but I'm going to let (my play) talk for itself," he said. "Everybody's talking about (Juneau-Douglas being) the big dogs. They're the big dogs out here, but this is a new school and we're coming. Actions speak louder than words and I'm going to let it talk on the field."
Niumataevalu said he's close with Juneau-Douglas All-State running back Matthew Maka, and while there was some pressure to play with the Crimson Bears, he decided to join the Falcons instead.
"When I first came to visit, (Maka) was the one who showed me around," he said. "That's my bro, but I decided to come do my own thing.
"I'm going to bring intensity to this team, that's all I bring," he continued. "I just bring everything I can and leave it all on the field."
But Stokes and Niumataevalu, the two former Southern Californians, aren't the only transfers from the West Coast. Rising sophomore tight end Joseph Ia, a native of Honolulu, arrived in Juneau two months ago when his guardian was placed in Juneau by the U.S. Coast Guard.
"It's been all right, but I went from hot to cold so it's really different," Ia said. "The weather we play in is definitely different."
While the overcast skies and cool temperatures of Juneau are a far cry from the balmy beaches of Honolulu, football is still the same, and Ia and his teammates are ready to play.
"There's not much difference except the players' height, weight and the weather we play in," Ia said. "We're really confident and we've been pumped up since last weekend. We're taking it on and we're ready, big time."
Ia, who was brought up to varsity in Thursday's practice, said the call-up from JV was an unexpected event at this point in the season.
"I was just doing my thing out there and (the coaches) came up to me and said, 'Get your butt to varsity,' so i got there," he said. "We're going to bring it this year."
Not all the out-of-state transfers came via the West Coast, however. Paul Strickler, a rising junior lineman, came to Thunder Mountain from Pocatello, Idaho, and has found a place with the varsity squad. Not only is Strickler new to the Falcons' football team, he is new to the sport of football.
"Actually, I didn't play football in Idaho, I was big into lacrosse," he said. "But when I came up here and there was no lacrosse, I thought I might as well try football. It's a new program with room for growth.
"We're really set on getting to state and placing at least. Everybody has put their mind to it and that's something I like to see. It's good motivation."
The family atmosphere Falcons coach Bill Byouer has instilled in the program is especially noticeable to the newcomers. Strickler said it feels like a tight-knit team.
"The kids all have respect for each other," he said, "and that's really cool."
"We're a brotherhood, and it shows on the field," Niumataevalu added. "Sometimes people get angry with each other when something doesn't go right, but we've got to learn how to throw that to the back and just get it going. We've just got one thing in mind and that's state.
"Hopefully, that's on everybody's mind."
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