Kodiak is unveiling its color rush uniforms today in its football home opener against Chugiak.
The Bears will be decked out in everything blue — helmets, jersey, pants and socks.
Gone are Kodiak’s traditional white helmets with a K decal on the sides, a look the team has had since becoming a varsity program in 2003.
In are matte blue helmets with a Bear logo on each side and a tribal stripe down the middle.
“It is really nice compared to the plain, polished white,” junior Igan Galindez said. “I really like it, especially at home — we are going to be in a color rush. It is going to be the first time the crowd sees it.”
Second-year head coach Bryan Ellsworth surprised the players with the new-look helmet during a team camp days before the start of the season. He sat a box on a table and had a player open it in front of the team. Players swarmed around the box in anticipation.
Initially, the players thought Ellsworth got them an Xbox, but they quickly discovered what waited for them inside the box was something better.
“It was crazy. We all started screaming. People got on tables. It is just new helmets, but it is so much more to us than that,” Galindez said.
Since players dedicate their offseason to training and fundraising, Ellsworth wanted to repay them with helmets. He got emotional when talking about what the helmets meant to the program.
“You scrap, claw and fight your way to get pennies together to travel and pay for other people to travel here, that you don’t have money to do anything for them (the players),” Ellsworth said.
“They just work so hard. We raise all this money, and you just want to see the kids get something back for it. I feel it was a great investment. They are super excited about it,” he added.
The helmets are not new. Ellsworth sent 60 of the white helmets to San Diego so Riddell could upgrade the lid and turn it matte blue.
Ellsworth said Mike York and Kodiak High School activities director Debbie Rohrer helped line up the shipping of the helmets, while the school paid to get the helmets reconditioned. The team chipped in money for the new color.
Junior Brad Lagus recommended matte blue helmets to Ellsworth during the offseason. What Lagus didn’t know was that Ellsworth had already sent the helmets off to get painted.
“When you can put a smile on their face and give them something to rally around and be happy about, that is a pretty cool opportunity,” Ellsworth said.
DIVISION I OPPONENT
Kodiak’s run against Division I opponents continues tonight against Chugiak, a member of the Cook Inlet Conference.
Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Joe Floyd Track and Field.
The Mustangs topped Palmer 26-2 in Week 1 to equal their win total from a year ago.
Ellsworth said Chugiak has an athletic quarterback, a physical running back and a solid defense.
“They look well-coached and in-tune,” the coach said. “I know they had a little bit of a down season last year, but I don’t expect them to see anything remotely close to that this year.”
Kodiak, a Division II school, got a taste of Division I football last week in a 36-0 loss at Dimond. The team had its miscues, but Ellsworth was proud of how his troops competed for the entire game against a bigger opponent.
The Bears are 3-13 all-time when playing up a classification, which includes a 50-0 loss to Chugiak in 2014 at the Floyd. Kodiak plays another Division I school in Week 3 when Wasilla comes to The Rock.
“They know what we face week in and week out, and they come out, show up and put it all out on the field,” Ellsworth said. “It takes a lot of courage, inner strength and camaraderie to do that kind of thing.”
One of the goals this week is to get on the scoreboard. Last week was the first time Kodiak had been shutout in 10 games, a stretch dating back to 2017.
“You have to score to win, but we are looking at step-by-step — what do we need to clean up that makes us better,” Ellsworth said.