School: Cesar Chavez High School
WHAT: Airfare to Alaska
WHY: It seems the high school football season starts earlier every year, and in Arizona, that means heat. Cesar Chavez High School has gone to extremes to cool off next year, while providing an amazing adventure for the team. The Champions will open their season in Anchorage, Alaska, August 17.
Chavez has agreed to a home and home series with East Anchorage High School the next two years. East Anchorage will play in Phoenix in 2019. Chavez athletic director Lenny Doerfler came up with the idea.
“Arizona teams go to California, Nevada, but kids can go there anytime. But how many of our students have the opportunity to travel to Alaska.” Doerfler said.
“I thought Mr. Doerfler was joking when he talked about it. Not many schools like us go out of state to play a game,” football coach Manny Alcantar said. “We would be the first team in Arizona to play in Alaska. I was excited and happy that this was presented to us. Still in shock but blessed we have a chance to play in Alaska.”
“Our boys deserve it just as much as any other high school going out of state to play a football game. The majority of our kids have not been on planes or been further than Nevada. This will be something they remember for decades to come.”
Doerfler knows the area well, having spent 19 summers there, participating in coaching camps, and connecting with the local coaches, who were trying to improve high school football in the state. That familiarity will help Chavez navigate the locale.
“They are going to provide transportation once we get there, and we will probably sleep in the gym, since school won’t be in session yet. Their coaches are inviting our team to an Alaskan feast of salmon, halibut, moose and bear.”
The East Anchorage Thunderbirds were 9-3 last year, advancing to the semifinals of Division I, the largest school division. They were state champions in 2016. The school, with an enrollment of 2,200, has also been labeled the most diverse school in America, culturally, ethnically and socio-economically. The last time East played a team from the “lower 48” was 15 years ago, travelling to Clovis, California.
“It’s very good to have outside teams come up so that the players and fans can get the experience of playing against and seeing other programs,” East Anchorage coach Jeff Trotter said. “This will be great for the players and will create a lot of interest in the sport here.”
“When our AIA athletic directors came together to discuss scheduling, they asked who was going out of state. When I said Chavez is going to Alaska, they all said, ‘what? when?’ They were shocked,” said Doerfler.
Now comes the hard part, raising the $25-30,000 to take 40 student-athletes and staff on a long road trip. Doerfler says Chavez has a very active booster club that will help. They are planning a golf tournament, and hoping to receive some help from local businesses.
While the temperature in August is in the 60’s in Anchorage, you have to wonder what East Anchorage will think the next year when they have to travel to Arizona in the summer. Seems Chavez got the better deal on this schedule.
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