For the first time in five years Tuesday, Juneau-Douglas football coach Rich Sjoroos suited up in full pads and participated in practice as the team prepared for Saturday's showdown against undefeated West Anchorage in the 4A state semifinals in Anchorage.
"My back's a little stiff but I'm still walking," Sjoroos admitted with a chuckle after practice. "Let's just say I'm almost 41 and I felt like it, and I ran like it. It gives you a whole new respect for the effort the kids are putting in.
"I made them all look pretty good."
Sjoroos promised the team he would don the pads again for the first time since 2005 if it could pull out a win against playoff nemesis Chugiak last Saturday in the opening round of the large-schools state playoffs in Juneau.
The Crimson Bears slogged through the first three quarters before exploding for 24 points over the final 10 minutes to earn a state semifinal bid by knocking off the Mustangs.
"It was good fun and I promised them I would follow through on that, and I think everybody enjoyed it," Sjoroos said. "I scored one touchdown in the scrimmage, but I got schooled more than I schooled anybody else; that's for sure."
"I just told the kids I've had such a history with not only JDHS football but with Chugiak," he continued. "I said, 'This game means so much to me that if we pull it off, I'll put pads on for you guys in practice.' That got them all revved up."
The Empire Sports section will feature a Juneau-Douglas captain in both Thurday's and Friday's sports sections, as well as an in-depth game preview for Saturday's 1 p.m. matchup against West Anchorage in Anchorage. The winner advances to the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2010 First National Bowl at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.
Colony and Service kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the other semifinal clash.