Barrow, Alaska was the place to be Saturday if you couldn't wait another day for a football fix. The hometown Whalers opened the season by playing host to the Kodiak Bears on the blue turf 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Kodiak won, 21-7, in a rematch of last season's Alaska small schools state semifinals. The Bears won that game, 19-13, in Anchorage.
A big thank you to Barrow resident Budd Goodyear for sending this photo package, including the shot above of Barrow quarterback Albert Gerke getting crunched by two Kodiak tacklers.
While sizzling summer heat grips much of the Lower 48, officials in Alaska are getting ready to tee it up for the start of prep football. Our favorite Alaska team, the Barrow Whalers, will be playing host to the dreaded Kodiak Bears on Saturday in a rematch of last season's small schools state semifinals, won by Kodiak, 19-13.
This site first chronicled the story of the Whalers in 2006, when officials in Alaska's northernmost city — located 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle — decided to field a football team. ESPN sent writer Wayne Drehs and videographer Nik Kleinberg to Barrow to cover the first game and they produced an award-winning two-part series you can view by clicking here and here.
The home-field advantage of the Barrow High Whalers is not to be trifled with.
The Whalers started fast and never lifted their foot off the pedal Saturday in a 46-18 victory over the Houston Hawks in a small schools Alaska quarterfinal game at Cathy Parker Field, a stirring victory in the first playoff game above the Arctic Circle.
The victory earned Barrow a trip to the state semifinals later this week at the Anchorage Football Stadium. The opponent is the always tough Kodiak Bears.
With temperatures in the high 20s and a brisk 25-mph wind off the Arctic Ocean whipping up snow, the Whalers turned to their running game, amassing 363 yards and holding the visiting Hawks to only 119.
We thank Eric Engman of the Fairbanks News-Miner for the photo of Barrow coach Mark Ross getting doused with water as time expired, along with newspaper's Danny Martin and James Brooks.
Our favorite high school football team, the Barrow Whalers, have made the Alaska state playoffs and will be playing host to the first playoff game above the Arctic Circle at 1 p.m. (Alaska) on Saturday.
The dreaded Houston Hawks are the opponent in the quarterfinal game and officials were scrambling Friday to get snow, which was up to 18 inches deep, cleared from Cathy Parker Field. Only flurries are expected at kickoff and temperatures are forecast to soar into the 20s.
Whaler players went through their final practice on Friday in 20-degree temperatures that were chilled by a 35 mph wind off the Arctic Ocean. The ocean is less than 100 yards from the field.
Check out the polar bear eyeing a blocking sled while prowling around the Barrow High Whalers' field this week. James Brooks of the Fairbanks News-Miner, who authored a terrific piece last month on the team, emails that the Whalers are undefeated and can clinch a playoff berth Saturday with a victory at Monroe Catholic (midway through linked story).
As we all know, October playoff games in Barrow not only favor the home team, but put the frozen tundra of Green Bay to shame. The photo was taken by John Gleason of Barrow.