Are you ready for some football? If you're living in Alaska or Hawaii, you've already got some, and there is plenty more on the way. Ready or not, the 2012 prep football season has begun.
Across the country, prep football programs are getting summer training camps for the forthcoming fall football season under way in earnest, working out with two-a-days and, in many cases, engaging in full contact drills.
Yet Alaska and Hawaii are far beyond that. The entire slate of high school football teams in the nation's farthest Western states got underway on Friday and Saturday, with a handful of key games taking place during the season's first week.
That's astonishing, considering the fact that most schools are just getting going, with many donning full pads and helmets for the first time while their contemporaries in Alaska and Hawaii were kicking off in full-fledged games that actually count on the 2012 season record.
The move to start Alaskan football so early makes sense because of the state's arctic weather. With a season that starts in early August, Alaskan football can declare a state champion before November, when it gets so cold that playing a full football game could come with a significant risk of frostbite. As currently constituted, the Alaskan regular season ends the first week of October, with the playoffs wrapping up before Halloween.
Hawaii has also kicked off the season in mid-August in recent years, and 2012 was no exception, with the likes of Kealakehe (Hi.) High and Kailua (Hi.) High facing off on Friday night.
While that may seem to be just when American football culture is hitting its stride across the rest of the country, it's nothing out of the ordinary for Alaska. In fact, October playoffs have become just another part of the uniquely Alaskan tradition of high school football, complete with a relative scarcity of teams and one of the nation's most beautiful, blue fields that practically melts into the adjacent sea.
In August, it's also the only football action that is off and running, quite literally. That puts the gold rush state in the spotlight for another couple weeks before the rest of the country catches up to speed.