Tony Brooke, the football coach of the Redington Huskies, often doesn't sleep well after a game. He replays pivotal moments that led to a loss. He plots ways to spark a young team that knows about losing, but not about winning.
The opening night of Alaska's high school football season brought another sleepless night for Brooke. But for all of the right reasons.
The Huskies, a three-year-old school in Knik that was 0-12 in its first two seasons, broke into the win column in decisive fashion by beating Monroe Catholic 54-40 Friday night in Fairbanks.
"We were so hyped up it was actually hard to get to sleep," Brooke said. "I'm sure there's a few guys who didn't sleep at all."
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Instead, while bunked down for the night in Monroe's gym, players buzzed about their breakthrough, posted pictures on Instagram and texted the big news to friends and family.
"They were telling everybody who they knew that we had finally won," Brooke said. "One of them said, 'My mom's not gonna believe me.' "
Other Alaska schools have endured longer losing streaks — West once lost 27 straight, Eagle River lost its first 19 games before experiencing victory, and a few other have gone 20 or more games between wins.
But not many started where the Huskies did. On the first day of practice back in 2015 — the year the school opened — six players showed up.
"The first four games, we had to cancel," Brooke said. "It wasn't until the fifth week where we finally had enough guys where we could go and play somebody without risking injury."
A combined middle school and high school with about 525 students, Redington finished with about two dozen players, all of them freshmen and sophomores, many of them entirely new to football.
Last year was the first season the Huskies had juniors. This is the first time they have seniors.
One of those seniors is quarterback Sam Reed, who piled up 270 rushing yards and about 100 passing yards and scored three touchdowns Friday night.
A trio of juniors also came up big. Kyler Rumfelt, who missed last season's final three games with a broken ankle, ran for 175 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Isaiah Hall scored two touchdowns and ran for two PATs. And linebacker Eli Benson anchored the defense and whether in the game or on the sideline kept everyone pumped up, Brooke said.
As Redington protected its two-touchdown lead with the clock winding down, some of the upperclassmen orchestrated a Gatorade bath for their coach.
"You could hear them talking — 'We're gonna win!' '' Brooke said. "… We preached to them, when we do get that first win, be humble with it, show good sportsmanship, and then we'll party like it's 1999.
"We were jumping up and down and whooping and hollering, and we went out for ice cream afterwards."
Brooke, who teaches video production to middle schoolers and high schoolers at Redington, came to Alaska 20 years ago with his wife, Yvonne, who is from Palmer.
He came with an ingrained love of football — he went to high school in Texas, where football is king, and went to college at Notre Dame, where football is sacred.
He didn't play beyond junior high, but in college he helped coach a pee-wee team. He was teaching at Pioneer Peak Elementary School when he told his principal there he'd like to coach some day.
That principal, Tom Lytle, was about to become the first principal at Redington. Before long Brooke was the new school's football coach, boys basketball coach and boys soccer coach.
All three programs are still fledglings. The basketball team was winless the first year and won three games last season. The soccer team, which went through a winless first season with 10 players, got its first victory last season.
And now the football team, which lost four JV games in 2015 and eight varsity games in 2016, has a win.
The progress has been obvious, Brooke said. Players have gone "from deer in the headlights to 'Hey, Coach, we've got this.' ''
One of Friday night's most satisfying moments, he said, came on the team bus after the game when one of the kids lamented that school begins Monday.
"Yeah," replied another, "but we get to walk into our classrooms as winners."