ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — This weekend marks the 17th edition of the Battle for the Boot, the annual prep football rivalry between East and Bartlett High schools, and for the third straight season, both teams are the top-ranked in the state.
"This game is not going to be for the faint of heart,” said Bartlett Head Coach Daniel Esparza. “This is SEC. Better strap on your man pants and come ready to hit people."
"They've been a juggernaut this year,” said East Head Coach Jeff Trotter. “So we'll have to see if we can slow them down.”
But could winning the Boot be bad luck? The loser of this game the past two seasons has gone on to win the ASAA Div. I state football championship. Over the past seven years Bartlett leads the series with four wins.
What is the boot?
Most rivalries are developed over time, and are typically between two teams that are close in proximity. For example the Yankee’s and Red Sox in baseball, Auburn and Alabama in College Football, and Duke and North Carolina in College Basketball.
Besides being on the same side of town, the East and Bartlett rivalry took a turn in 2002 when former all state Thunderbird lineman Aanooali "Auno" Filoialli who was killed in a car accident. Since Auno’s death, his cleat adorns a traveling trophy given to the winner of their annual matchup.
Filoailli family ties run deep in East Anchorage, with relatives and former teammates still coaching and playing on either team.
By the numbers
It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that both of these teams have dominated their competition, as each have outscored their opponents by over 100 points this season.
The Thunderbirds currently have the edge on defense, holding opponents to just 53 points this season, allowing only two teams (South and Cesar Chavez High School) to score touchdowns.
“It will be interesting since it's the number one offense verse the number one defense,” said Trotter. “It will be a good match up in that manner."
For the Golden Bears it’s all about offense, outscoring their opponents 298 to 142, and scoring over 70 points in a single game two times this season.