ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Wednesday marks the beginning of the high school football season in Alaska. Practice starts on July 25, and most schools open their competitive season on August 10.
Storylines heading into the 2018 season: Conference realignment, new head coaches, Juneau joins forces, plus Soldotna’s winning streak.
Cook Inlet Conference: Dimond, East Anchorage, Service, South Anchorage and West Anchorage
Chugach Conference: Bartlett, Chugiak, Colony, Juneau and Wasilla
Northern Lights: Eagle River, Kenai, Kodiak and Soldotna
Railbelt: Lathrop, North Pole, Palmer and West Valley
Aurora: Barrow, Ben Eielson, Monroe Catholic, Redington, and Valdez
Peninsula: Homer, Houston, Ketchikan, Nikiski and Seward
A new season also means new coaches. Kahlil Bolling, a 2011 Service High grad will take the helm for the team, after longtime coach Jason Caldarera retired after last season.
Chugiak took the same approach, hiring alumnus Ryan Landers as its new head football coach, replacing longtime prep football coach Roger Spackman. It's been a waiting game for Landers, spending the past 13 seasons as an assistant coach for Chugiak.
Dimond named Bernardo Otero the Lynx's new head football coach this January. Otero coached under former head coach Nick Winkler for two years.
At South High, Walter Harmon is the school's new head coach, and will replace John Lewis who led the program to three state championships in 14 seasons.
In the Valley, Rhett Magner stepped down after three seasons as the head coach of Colony High School. Fred McKenney will replace Magner this season.
Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools will play as one football team for the 2018 season, and the team’s mascot will be the Thunder Bears.
Shortly after the 2017 season ended, Juneau School District requested the Alaska School Activities Association merge the two teams for safety and financial reasons.
The school district also faced an operating deficit heading into this season for both programs, high travel costs, and low participation numbers.
The southeast is no stranger to success on the gridiron-- Juneau-Douglas won its most recent state championships in 2005 and 2007, when it was the only prep football program in Juneau.
Fishing and football are synonymous this time of year on the Kenai Peninsula, as Soldotna High School carries a 59-game win streak into the 2018 season. It's one of the longest active prep football win streaks in the nation.
The Stars won their sixth straight ASAA Division II title last season, defeating Palmer High School 21-0. All eyes will be on the peninsula powerhouse when the Stars take on West on August 10 in Soldotna.