Bears maul Grizzlies in Juneau 

Alaska football game builds character of Pemberton team both on and off the field

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KLAS STOLPE, JUNEAU EMPIRE - ON THE LINE The Pemberton Grizzlies learned a lot in a 72-0 loss to one of the top high school football teams in Alaska this past weekend.
  • Photo by Klas Stolpe, Juneau Empire
  • ON THE LINE The Pemberton Grizzlies learned a lot in a 72-0 loss to one of the top high school football teams in Alaska this past weekend.

For the Pemberton Grizzlies the most recent road trip was more about the overall experience and less about the game that brought on the trip.

The team travelled to Juneau, Alaska to play against one of the best high school football teams in the northern-most American state. The score in the game on Saturday, Sept. 21 was lop-sided with the home team, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears, leaving the visitors scoreless.

Coach John Burleson said the trip was a great experience for the players from Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie who are between the ages of 14 and 17.

The host team paid for the airfare to bring the Grizzlies to Alaska and most of the road trip food was taken care of by the Bears. In addition to playing the game, the Sea to Sky players toured the Juneau area. Burleson said the tour included an informative excursion around the historic city and a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier.

"The guys thought ahead of time that we live around glaciers and so its no big deal, but the Mendenhall Glacier is a different type of glacier and the kids were just blown away by how amazing it really was," said Burleson.

Juneau, with its population of 31,000 people, welcomed the Grizzlies. Burleson said the Bears' booster club hosted a dinner Friday night for the players and coaches on the two teams. The dinner gave the players an opportunity to mingle and meet each other.

"There was some of their players that were kind of eyeing our players competitively and there were some players that got together and sat down and acted like kids," said Burleson.

When the two teams took to the field the Grizzlies hit the turf with a slimmed down version of the team, as five team members didn't make the trip.

"During the game we had players playing in different positions they'd never played before," Burleson said. "Our offensive line was a patchwork line so they had to endure a lot of punishment during the game."

Burleson described the match up as a David versus Goliath situation. The Alaska team's defensive line is large. The hometown team scored 72 points by the end of the first half.

"They won the crowd over with their complete resolution of playing like grizzlies," Burleson said of how his players performed. "They did not allow a score in the second half even.

"We only allowed 130 yards through the air and 95 yards on the ground," he said. "We just had breakdowns on special teams and a couple long passes from them and the game got out of hand pretty quick on the scoreboard."

The Grizzlies are an independent high school-age team comprised of players from Whistler, Pemberton and Mt. Currie. This is only the team's second season, playing most of its games south of the border last year.

This year they've joined the B.C. Community Football Association, which plays by American rules and provides sanctioning for teams and small communities where schools don't have enough players to form teams without combining with other small schools.


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