The Juneau-Douglas High School football teams were able to travel today and they will play their scheduled varsity and junior varsity games on Saturday, school officials said.
The games had been in limbo after commercial flights were grounded around the country following the terrorist attacks Tuesday in New York City and Washington, D.C. Alaska Airlines resumed flights on Thursday, which meant the Juneau teams could travel to their respective games.
The Crimson Bears varsity squad caught a plane to Anchorage this morning, and the state's top-ranked team will play a non-Cook Inlet Football Conference game against Colony High School at 1 p.m. Saturday in Palmer. The Juneau JV team is scheduled to catch a plane to Ketchikan on Saturday morning so it can play a rematch against the Ketchikan varsity at 5 p.m. Juneau's JV team blanked Ketchikan 54-0 last Saturday in Juneau.
Juneau's cross country teams will catch a ferry to Skagway tonight for a meet Saturday. The only JDHS events to be postponed were volleyball matches against Ketchikan scheduled for tonight and Saturday. Those matches were postponed because of transportation logistics, since the Ketchikan team had been stranded in Fairbanks since Tuesday and the players wanted to get home. No makeup dates have been set. The swim team is idle this weekend.
While major professional and college games were canceled or postponed around the country, many high school events are taking place, according to the Associated Press. In Alaska, all scheduled football games will take place this weekend and few events have been postponed. The Mat-Su Borough School District's cross country championships took place Wednesday, as did a full slate of high school tennis matches in Anchorage. The Homer and Skyview volleyball teams even played a match on Tuesday, the day of the attacks.
"I think the general consensus was that the kids and parents wanted to play these games," said Steven White, the president of the Juneau Youth Football League, which sponsors the JDHS football teams. "A lot of people think the release will be good for the kids. It will be a way for them to be kids again. I've had no parents come up to me and say they didn't want their kids to fly."
"If we thought there was any danger or risk, we wouldn't let them go," JDHS principal Deb Morse said. "We told the coaches if they had students who didn't want to go, there should be no consequences against them."
Morse said the only calls she received on the travel issue were from a couple of parents who wanted to make sure there were no restrictions on the teams traveling to their games. Sandi Wagner, the JDHS activities director, said she hadn't had any calls from parents wanting to keep their children home.
"There is an argument not to go, but there's also one that says to carry on life like normal. Well, nothing's normal," Wagner said. "You want to go back to the way things were, but it's impossible. They know things are bad, but we want them to carry on with life."
When Juneau's football teams practiced Tuesday night, only one or two players were missing. The Crimson Bears practiced in the rain Wednesday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, while a JYFL youth football game took place on an adjacent field. Thursday night, the Crimson Bears held an indoor practice and a family potluck dinner at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. Many of the players and parents said they wanted to return to action this weekend, and most of the players seemed more concerned with defending Juneau's No. 1 ranking in the state polls than with flying.
"It should be a lot safer," varsity wide receiver Eric Tollefson said about flying to games. "We're ready to go up there. We're still heartfelt for all those people, but we're ready to move on. The other teams are playing because they only have to take a bus to their games. Well, we take a big bus to get to our games, and it has wings."
Varsity head football coach Reilly Richey said the team didn't cancel practices because the squad is like a surrogate family for some players. He said there probably won't be a passenger on this morning's plane who won't be thinking about Tuesday's attacks. Richey said he had a couple of parents discuss this weekend's travel plans with him, but nobody said they were keeping their children from going to the games.
"We're like a family and Tuesday we thought it would be a good idea to be together as a family out there," Richey said. "We wanted to keep our routine. We don't want to live in a life of fear."
One parent who did express some worries was Lynda Giguere, whose son Austen Clair was on this morning's flight to Anchorage. Giguere said she was more comfortable about putting her son on the plane after talking things over Thursday night.
"I feel better," Giguere said. "When it happened I was thinking I don't know what this (the attack) is. I told Austen the world as he knew it had just changed. Some parents probably think I'm overreacting. Getting them back to being normal is probably the better choice than the other."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.