About 100 friends and parents joined the Juneau-Douglas High School football team, coaches, cheerleaders and band for a pep rally and sendoff on Thursday.
The Crimson Bears leave for Anchorage this morning and take on Palmer at 1 p.m. Saturday for the state championship.
"I'm a big Bears fan myself, and an alumni, so I came to support my team," said JDHS history teacher Kristy Germain. "A lot of my students are on the football team and are cheerleaders."
The festivities kicked off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday after the final practice of the year at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The pep band fired up those in attendance, while the Crimson Bears assembled at the far wing of the stadium. The cannon fired and the team sprinted through a breakaway banner held by the cheerleaders. The cheerleaders performed for the crowd next, with many of the parents and fans cheering. The team was then introduced individually, as were the coaches.
JDHS coach Bill Chalmers addressed the crowd as the captains brought out the familiar No. 46 Bears jersey, retired for late head coach Reilly Richey.
Many of the parents in attendance will be joining the team in Anchorage.
Juneau Youth Football League board member Karen Lawfer said about 100 plane tickets have been sold for the game.
"It's just so sweet," Lawfer said from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. "People are going by hook or by crook."
Lawfer said the last time the Crimson Bears made the state championship game in 2003, there were barely any plane tickets available. The dearth of tickets led to a frantic fundraising charge, so people in Juneau could watch the game.
"2003 was wild because it was almost impossible to get a seat to fly up to Anchorage," Lawfer said. "We couldn't get flights, then we decided to satellite the game down and we had two days to raise $10,000 and we did. That was kind of crazy."
This year, the Crimson Bears can expect a vocal contingent in the stands for Saturday's contest.
Marilyn Monagle, mother of JDHS offensive lineman Joe Monagle, helped cheer the Crimson Bears to a 21-3 win over East last Saturday in Anchorage.
Monagle said she was pleasantly surprised by the number of JDHS supporters up north.
"It surprised me," Monagle said. "Everywhere we went we were running into people. I was with a group of people wearing Crimson Bears jackets and they would say, 'We used to live in Juneau and we're going to be at the game.' There's a good group up there."
The team didn't get too crazy or too emotional at the rally. They sprinted out for introductions and jumped up and down at the 50-yard line.
They'll be bringing that same even-keeled focus and intensity to Anchorage when they board the plane this morning.
"This football team, and I've been involved in Juneau football for years, this team has a confidence that I've never seen," Lawfer said. "They've melded together. I don't know if it's a shared one vision of bringing home a title for coach Richey. It's just a different air almost. ... There's a presence."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org