112 Miles: The journey to bring football to Healy
112 miles. That’s the distance between Fairbanks and Healy. The distance between Monroe Catholic High School and Tri-Valley High School. However, they do have one thing in common - they have a football program together. This past weekend, Head Coach Marcus Cogley took a small group of Monroe players down to Healy to run a mini football camp.
Early this year, Monroe announced that they would co-oping with Tri-Valley to allow students in Healy to play football. A town that is dominated by sports like basketball and cross country, the prospect of football has always been in the background. Healy for years has had football equipment, but not enough people to run a team. That changes this year, with two schools working together. It’s worth mentioning that both schools have a heated rivalry between the hockey programs. But for these Healy kids, the availability to play football has them excited.
“It’s different. It’s a new experience.” said David Smith of Healy. “I’ve played basketball my whole life and you know I kind of fell in love with that and then I saw football and I was like, ‘Oh my God’ I love trampling people. I told my mom and I signed it up and now it’s a new thing I have to learn and I’m just you know like a baby learning how to walk.”
One of the words that the Monroe group kept saying about the Healy players was, “Huge”. They weren’t exaggerating, as Tri-Valley has some players that look like mountain men from their size. Monroe has had size in the past, from players like Tanner Clark and Alex Van Whye but to potentially have the entire offensive line full of big guys is something the Rams haven’t had. One of those potential lineman is Laird Dixon, a senior. Dixon throughout the mini-camp showed great footwork and the ability to snap a football with accuracy. One of the Healy coaches stated that Laird is also a dancer. This is his one chance to play high school football, and he is excited to take the opportunity.
“I try to stay humble, like I know that I’m pretty big, I’m built. I’m not going to underestimate anyone on that field so I try to stay level headed and grounded. It’s kind of surreal, I mean in Healy there’s not much opportunity beyond track and field, soccer and basketball so it’s such a small town that you have no real opportunity to be seen by big names or anything. So it’s kind of an eye opener, definitely going to open my eyes to what’s beyond the small town that I live in.” said Laird Dixon.
The first big hurdle is over, the two teams have met and now they prepare for July 31, the start of training camp. It’s now time to see where this program goes, even if there is 112 miles between them.