Taft football team appears headed to Alaska
by BRIAN NADIG
Fresh off its first city championship since 1972, the Taft High School varsity football team could be playing one of the top teams in the country in Anchorage, Alaska, next season.
"I’m 99 percent sure it’s a go," Taft principal Mark Grishaber said. "The way I look at it we’ll not be representing Taft over there. We’ll be representing Chicago."
Grishaber, who is in his fifth year at Taft, has been a strong advocate for overnight student trips, explaining that they are great learning experiences and create lasting memories. Taft recently sent its marching band to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and last school year a basketball game was scheduled in Ohio but was canceled due to an ice storm.
Grishaber could serve as a tour guide for the trip to Alaska. He received his Master of Business Administration degree from Alaska Pacific University, not far from where Taft is scheduled to play East High School, which has won two state football championships in the last 3 years.
"I know East Anchorage," Grishaber said. "It’s kind of a homecoming for me."
Perhaps the most important part of the trip will occur at a social event in which players from both teams will get to know each other, Grishaber said. "What’s it like growing up in Chicago and what’s it like growing up in Alaska," he said.
Grishaber recalled that when he was attending school in Alaska, the name Al Capone often came up when he mentioned his hometown of Chicago and that when he returned 10 years later Alaskans were instead associating the city with Michael Jordan.
While there maybe some cultural differences, the students may learn that they have a lot in common despite living so far from each other, Grishaber said. "It’s kind of like being in Schaumburg," he said of the suburban lifestyle near East High.
Grishaber said that he hopes the trip will lead to lasting friendships, with the players from both teams exchanging contact information. "This is so much more than a football game," he said.
Tentative plans call for the team to leave Chicago around 6 a.m. Friday, Sept. 6, play the game on Saturday and return late Sunday or early Monday.
About 50 players and 10 coaches/chaperons are expected to make the trip. The estimated total cost of the trip is $65,000, including a cost of between $800 and $1,000 per player.
Taft is asking alumni or businesses seeking to sponsor a play or make a donation to call assistant principal Ryan Glowacz at 773-534-1011.