Every Feb. 2, Groundhog Day overtakes the little-known town of Punxsutawney, Pa., a fact that Bill Murray brought to the big screen over and over and over again.
On the 4th of July, Americans are curiously glued to the televised festivities on Coney Island, where the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest has somehow infiltrated our veins and arteries. Thank you Joey Chestnut.
And now, the second Friday of every August, prep sports fans are zeroed in on the lush Hawaiian island of Oahu - Wahiawa to be exact - site of the spirited and growing Fire and Ice Bowl.
As traditions and catchy names go, we'll take the latter. Hands and hulas down.
Granted, the Fire and Ice Bowl is a new custom that kicks off the high school sports year. But this is indeed a cool custom – and hot one – pitting top prep football teams from often-ignored, much-vacationed Alaska and Hawaii.
It's sort of ironic really: Last states to enter the union, first to start the prep season.
On Friday at Leilehua (Wahiawa)
High School, West (Anchorage, Alaska)
plays Punahou (Honolulu)
at 4:30 p.m. local time, followed by Leilehua versus Service (Anchorage)
at 8 p.m.
About 2,500 fans figure to be on hand and the rest of Hawaii football junkies can watch on live TV.
"It's a great experience for all involved," Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said. "There's great camaraderie among everyone, a true cultural exchange and great team bonding."
Said West coach Tim Davis, whose team arrived Sunday: "No matter what happens we feel like we're head of the game. The whole trip feels like a victory in every sense."
Last year's initial game was a win in every sense but the scoreboard. Service and Leilehua finished in a 34-34 tie and the teams agreed not to go overtime.
Instead they embraced, hung loose and agreed to repeat the festivities in 365 days.
It was the first meeting between teams from the two small states since 1999, when Service defeated Kahuku, also in Hawaii.
In last year's game, Leilehua fought back from deficits of 14-0, 21-7 and 27-15 behind then senior quarterback Kenan Sadanaga, who threw for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Viliamu Aukusitino
accounted for all four Service touchdowns and was a first-team All-State performer, passing for 2,396 yards and rushing for 1,008 more last season. He's back to lead Service.
Tokuda said his team doesn't have a score to settle with its new Alaska rivals. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The two teams made such a bond, it's been like old reunion week ever since Service arrived on Friday.
Both Alaska teams arrived early to acclimate to the Hawaiian heat and humidity.
"Many of the Service players and our players remained friends all year on Facebook," Tokuda said. "So when they got in Friday it was like they never left. We had a banquet that night and had a rap contest. It's just been a great experience for all of them." Four state powers
Last year's game was originally organized by then Service offensive coordinator and now head coach Fenumiai "Numi" Ilalio Jr. He used to coach at Leilehua while stationed in Honolulu for the Army National Guard in the early 1990s.
During a 2011 trip back to the Island for the National Guard, Ilalio joked to a some Leilehua assistants that it would be fun for Service to open the season in Hawaii.
All parties made it happen.
After last season's success, Davis, a former Service assistant, was looking for a Week 1 game and a West administrator recommended looking into Hawaii.
Davis called Ilalio, who called his friends and bada-bing – the second Fire and Ice Bowl is twice the size and features four state powers.
In the MaxPreps Alaska preseason Top 5, Service is ranked No. 2 and West No. 3. Service (10-0-1 last season) is the defending large-school champion and West (5-5), loaded with sophomores and juniors last season, lost in the state semifinals.
Punahou (11-3), the state runner-up, is ranked No. 2 in Hawaii by MaxPreps, and unranked Leilehau (10-2-1) is No. 7 in the state by the Honolulu Advertiser.
"If last year's game is any indication, the fans should be in for a real treat," Tokuda said. "All teams will be representing their state and wanting to start the season strong."
One would think, Hawaii would have a huge advantage due to weather and attrition. Punahou has a roster of 72 and Leilehau about 55. West flew in 31 players and Service 35.
Davis said it won't be a problem.
"We look at it this way – our guys will get twice as many reps," he said. "We're never going to have a normal large-school roster like the rest of the country. But we have 11 great kids on the field at all time. We don't have much drop off anywhere."
Punahou 14th-year head coach and former Michigan State and NFL player Kale Ane said West looks big and strong and formidable on film. "They have some big boys who hit hard and can compete," he said.
As far as his squad that lost 15 starters to graduation, but boasts one of the Island's most talented roster, Ane said: "They definitely have the capability (of winning a state title), but right now we're just trying to fill this puzzle."Top 10 Players to Watch
QB Viliamu Aukusitino (Service) – Alaska 2011 Offense Player of the Year.
WR Marcel Dion
(West) – Alaska's top returning receiver after catching 58 passes for 1,000 yards and nine scores.
QB Conor Feckley
(West) – Threw for 2,541 yards and 25 touchdowns last year.
DB Matthew Ilalio
(Service) – Head coach's son has been a starter since he was sophomore.
DE Canton Kaumatule
(Punahou) – The 6-7, 265-pounder is one of the top sophomores in the country.
WR Keoni Piceno
(Leilehua) – First-team All-OIA performer is a transfer from Campbell.
LB Isaac Savaiinaea
(Punahou) – The 6-3, 240-pounder is headed to Stanford and ranked the No. 65 overall recruit in the country by MaxPreps. Mentioned in same breath with former Punahou LB standout Manti Te'o, now starring at Notre Dame.
QB Larry Tuileta
(Punahou) – Threw for 1,966 yards as a sophomore.
OL Semisi Uluave
(Panahou) – Another sophomore, the 6-6, 305-pounder is already getting loads of Division I attention.
C Jaryn Villegas
(Leilehua) – Third-team All-State guard moves to center.