The Whalers, a high school football team in Barrow, Alaska, won their first Division III state title last year. They hope to repeat this season.
The team plays above the Arctic Circle, in the northernmost community in the United States. Their nearest opponent is 500 miles away. It costs $20,000 to either fly the Whalers to an away game or bring a visiting team to Barrow, which is paid for with help from the state.
When the program started a dozen years ago, the boys practiced on a patch of dirt. That changed after a Florida football fan heard about the fledgling team and raised more than $500,000 to pay for new blue and yellow turf -- the Whalers’ colors. Snow is routinely cleared before games, and players and spectators alike are subjected to the wind and cold from the frigid Chukchi Sea, just 100 yards away and where actual whalers can be seen bringing in their catch.