Are all of Juneau's athletes on the rise?

Posted: Sunday, August 15, 2010

It seems this question has suddenly become relevant.

Since the beginning of the 2010 prep football season, there has been a noticeable increase in the usage of a certain adjective in the sports section: rising.

Never before has one seemingly harmless word sent confusion through a community like a viral video on YouTube, but in this case, it has. This is understandable, I might add, because its use in a single story was nothing short of overkill.

The term "rising" is simply a designation denoting a player's academic classification prior to the beginning of the school year.

Sure, upon first read it may have looked like overzealous optimism on my part, stating that every kid on the roster was about to break out, but it was not intended as an adjective describing a player's skill or athletic ability.

"Rising" is actually a fairly common term in sports vernacular, especially when referring to summer sports like AAU basketball or different high school athletic camps while school is not in session. However, it's not a term often associated with high school football in the fall because, in most places, games are not played outside of the academic year. It's a little different here in Juneau, for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to be playing football in November around here.

Having said that, I'll be the first to tell you that I practically felt dirty writing the story. The excessive use of one word in a single story made my head spin - that and the 8 p.m. kickoffs here in Juneau, the latest start times in the state (maybe the country).

The game isn't over until nearly 11 p.m., so handing a story in five minutes before deadline doesn't afford much of an opportunity for the editor to change a recap that features one descriptive word 321 times, or thereabouts.

Perhaps next time I'll get brave and explore other descriptive phrases, such as "senior-to-be," or "incoming" junior. Suggestions have been coming in by the day and they very seldom disappoint. One person suggested I must have just learned a new word and therefore must use it as much as possible, another just typed the word "rising" 24 times, and still another said they couldn't wait until my next article so they could try out a new drinking game.

All you do is take a shot every time the word "rising" appears in the text. At this point, you should have already taken five. Drink up and thanks for, I mean reading. OK, drink another.

Now let's talk about what really matters.

Both Juneau prep football teams are 2-0, and each have won impressively early in the season. And while it is only Aug. 15, questions for both schools have already been answered.

Question No. 1: How would the Crimson Bears respond after losing so much size and experience along the front lines from 2009?

At this point, early returns look favorable as the Crimson Bears have scored 92 points in two games. The opener against South Anchorage was as one-sided a track meet as you'll find, and South knocked off defending 4A champion Bartlett this week, ending the state's longest winning streak.

Defensive coordinator Al Fenumiai had the Bears blitzing seemingly at every snap, and the athletes on the field executed like he hoped. The JDHS defense was in the quarterback's face all night, and even when he did get the ball away the offense's timing was so off it made no difference.

The Juneau-Douglas offense was gifted fantastic field position all night long, and rising sophomore quarterback Phillip Fenumiai — sorry, had to do it at least one more time — put on a show. The Bears’ signal caller completed 11 of 13 passes for 173 yards and six total touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) to lead his team in a 55-14 romp over the Wolverines last Saturday.

One thing is clear; the Bears may have lost a lot of size, but, man, are they fast. Whether it’s the linebackers and defensive linemen getting into the backfield before the opposing offense can blink, or the wide receivers burning the coverage deep downfield, it looks like Juneau-Douglas didn’t need an early-season warm-up. They’re already on fire.

Question No. 2: Would the Thunder Mountain Falcons take a step up in the football program’s second year?

So far, so good.

The Falcons came into the new season brimming with confidence, and with good reason. Gone are the rigors of the inaugural season and all that goes into starting a new program, and the Thunder Mountain coaches seemed much more comfortable in preseason practices this year.

The coaches and players have been able to focus on football from Day 1, and the goal of reaching the state playoffs was the only thing on their minds. But two weeks into the season, coach Bill Byouer has to be happy with two convincing victories over conference foe Sitka and Homer.

But while the Bears have done a lot of damage through the air and out of the spread, the Falcons want to run the ball right down your throat - at least so far.

Thunder Mountain has run the ball 77 times and thrown it 24 times through the first two weeks, and it’s working.

However, with the defenses focusing so much on the Falcons’ running game, quarterback Camden Thomas has taken advantage over the top with four touchdown passes on just 21 attempts. That’s nearly one touchdown for every five passes thrown - not bad - and the Falcons are undefeated so far in their second year as a program.

Again, it’s early in the season and anything could still happen, but both teams will take an unblemished record.

But one thing is certain. After the school year begins, I may never type the word “rising” again. Well, at least until next summer.

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