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Cesar Chavez High School’s football team kicked off their season in Alaska


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  • Craig Pletenik/ Phoenix Union High School District

The Cesar Chavez High School Football Team Kicked Off The Season Friday, August 17 In A Game Against The East Anchorage Thunderbirds. Photo Courtesy Phoenix Union High School District

High school football season started last week, and one Arizona team is back from it’s first long road trip.

The Cesar Chavez High School football team kicked off the season Friday, August 17 in a game against the East Anchorage High School Thunderbirds.

The team – players, parents, staff and booster club raised funds to make his historic trip. Thirty-five student athletes, along with coaches and training and medical staff left last Tuesday evening. About a dozen parents made the trip.

Cesar Chavez High School's football team kicked off their season in Alaska Cesar-Chavez-Team-practice

The Cesar Chavez High School football team kicked off the season Friday, August 17 in a game against the East Anchorage Thunderbirds. Photo courtesy Phoenix Union High School District

Chavez Athletic Director Lenny Doerfler, who has worked at summer football camps in Alaska for 20 years, concocted the idea of Chavez playing in Alaska. This year, the Champions’ coach, Manny Alcantar accompanied Doerfler to the camp and did a little scouting.

“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.

“We would be the first team in Arizona to play in Alaska,” Alcantar said. “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.”

This is the first time Cesar Chavez has traveled out of state for a game, and it has been 15 years since East Anchorage played a team from the “lower 48.”

“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.”

East Anchorage already has played a game, winning 47-0, the previous week.

Cesar Chavez High School's football team kicked off their season in Alaska CesarChavezTeamGroupPhoto

The Cesar Chavez Football team kicked off the season Friday, August 17 in a game against the East Anchorage Thunderbirds.

The Phoenix visitors also had a chance to see the sights. They stayed in Soldotna where they practiced, and the team visited the seaport village of Homer, attended a salmon bake and visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center among other sightseeing activities.

Temperatures were in the 60’s, and although the stadium in Anchorage does not have lights, there will be plenty of sunlight with a 6 p.m. start (7 p.m. Phoenix time) and the long days of the Alaska summer.

Next year, East Anchorage will come to Phoenix for a game and experience the long Arizona summer.

Cesar Chavez High School's football team kicked off their season in Alaska CesarChavezTeam

Cesar Chavez High School football team members in Alaska

The Cesar Chavez Football team’s venture to Alaska was even more memorable, with the Champions bringing home a dominating 40-14 win over the top-ranked East Anchorage Thunderbirds, Friday.  The Champions jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, and 40-7 before the home team scored a late touchdown.

The local newspaper there reported, “A football team named the Champions looked like champions Friday night.  Cesar Chavez manhandled the top-ranked T-birds, using a no-huddle offense and speedy defenders to keep East off-balance, especially early in the game.”

Afterwards, the teams got together for a post-game dinner, and “rap battle” and enjoyed each other’s company.  The two teams will meet again next year in Phoenix.

“It was a good educational trip for our students.  They met many Alaskans, and were well-received.  The kids had conversations with so many different people and were so well-spoken,” athletic director Lenny Doerfler said.

The team watched the game video Saturday morning at West Anchorage High, visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and then flew overnight to Phoenix, arriving home Sunday morning.