In Alaska, the closest competition is more than 500 miles away

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

PALMER, AK (AP) -- As the top-ranked football team in Alaska, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears are obligated to play a few games on the road.

Trouble is, there are no roads out of the capital city of nearly 30,000 located in the fiordlands of Southeast Alaska. But that doesn't stop the Crimson Bears, whose conference foes are all schools in Anchorage 750 miles away.

''We're used to flying,'' said Juneau head coach Reilly Richey. ''Our closest conference game is an hour and 25-minute jet ride away.''

Added assistant coach Jeep Rice: ''The only bus we take is to the airport.''

Three days after the terrorist attacks in New York and Arlington, Va., parents, players and coaches boarded a full flight from Juneau to Anchorage. The team didn't find out it could fly until late Thursday night, about eight hours before departure time.

''I had to get up at 4 a.m.'' Richey said, adding the check-in took 2 1/2 hours -- an hour longer that the flight.

Juneau defeated Colony High of Palmer 14-7 Saturday in a nonconference game to remain undefeated at 6-0.

Quarterback Brett Fairchild said the team flies to about half of its games.

Sione Tupou, the hero of the game with two touchdowns and 129 yards rushing, said it was like any other flight.

''You take off, you fly, you land,'' Tupuo said.

Still, he and his teammates remained conscious about last week's devastating attack, a continent away. ''We were all thinking about what happened.''

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