My turn: It seems only right to pay tribute to Crimson Bears football coaches

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2007

Tonight the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears Varsity Football Team will celebrate this year's perfect football season at the annual team banquet. Still basking in the glow of the state championship, the team is primed to celebrate this year's undefeated record, honor its outgoing seniors, and name its hall of famers. Although the coaching staff usually heaps most of the praise on the players during this anticipated event, it seems only right that we first pay public tribute to the amazing group of men who guided the way for our stellar athletes this year.

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Coach Bill Chalmers is at the helm, a gentle giant of a man with a heart to match. With two of the last three state 4A football titles under his belt, he is at the forefront of the current Juneau football legacy. Always one to shun kudos, he makes it clear that it is the group effort of coaches and players that deserves credit for this year's perfect season. He continues to recognize the memory of Coach Riley Richey and Richey's influence on JDHS football. But make no mistake: This year's team was Coach Chalmers' team, pulled together by a coaching staff that Coach Chalmers hand picked almost three years ago. And Coach Chalmers scouted and developed this year's players over the past three seasons. We couldn't be luckier to have this seasoned, thoughtful leader and role model who is prone to literary references during his calm, inspiring pep talks. He holds study sessions in his classroom, stresses academic diligence, and represents the football team's interests to school district administrators in a quiet, eloquent, and effectual way. His is the yin to the yang of the dynamic duo that leads the offensive and defensive coaching efforts.

That dynamic duo is Coach Eddy Brakes and Coach Rich Sjoroos, who are nothing short of stunning in their ability to pull together amazing gridiron teams. Coach Sjoroos, the offensive coach, is a walking calculator: The national, state and local football stats he can cite off the top of his head at moment's notice are almost scary. Those stats and his precision-perfect study of the game form the foundation for his portfolio of brilliant offensive plays and strategies. He has a knack for adapting an ingenious, innovative offensive strategy that surprises the opposition and perfectly exploits the unique set of his players' talents at just the right moment. Well into the season, the baffled looks on the faces of opposing coaches said it all: This man is a football mastermind.

Coach Brakes is the kind of coach that every parent hopes his kid has at least once. He could write the book on motivation. Year after year, he inspires, he yells, he cajoles, he motivates, and he builds the best defensive teams in Alaska high school football. Players covet his approval and respect. As one of them said, "When you're one of Coach Brakes' guys, life is good."

Coach Eddy lives and breathes Crimson Bears football and can inspire the most recalcitrant player to get fired up and get down to business. Watching Coach Brakes on the sidelines is an event in itself; he is animated and possessed. He is able to get every drop out of each player's ability and mold each player into the best he can possibly be.

Coach Brakes and Coach Sjoroos could arguably coach any high school or college team; we are lucky to have them both at JDHS.

The varsity coaching staff is rounded out by a host of great assistant coaches: Emil West, Nick Lammi, Scot Parker, and Romney Tupou. These fine men contributed countless hours and dedication to the Crimson Bears' winning football season.

And we can't forget Coach Bill Byouer and his assistants who coached one of the best junior varsity seasons on record (6-1). They send a promising and well-prepared roster of players to the varsity ranks next year.

Riley Richey is remembered for the Crimson Bear motto: RIENG (Respect Is Earned Not Given). Each of our varsity and junior varsity coaches, under the leadership of Coach Chalmers, has earned the highest respect and gratitude of the players, the parents, and the community. Thanks, coaches. You made us proud!

• Joe Perkins is the father of Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bear Jack Perkins and a former Juneau Youth Football League Board member.

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