Welcome back, high school football.
I kicked off my road trips a week and a half ago by visiting the Delta. Marshall Academy played a couple of scrimmage games at Pillow Academy in Greenwood.
Then this past Friday afternoon I headed to Coffeeville where the Holly Springs Hawks were participating in a jamboree.
I’ve driven Highway 7 from Oxford to Water Valley, past Coffeeville and on to Interstate 55 near Grenada many, many times since moving to Marshall County 17 years ago.
But I’d never exited Highway 7 for Coffeeville.
I had directions to the high school plugged into my phone.
And as I’ve found out in my high school expeditions for the past 32 years, the football fields are not always by the school.
After riding around a bit and searching myself, I decided to stop at a gas station and ask.
A man was stopped at the gas pump, and I asked, “Hey, good afternoon, can you tell me where the football field is?”
In typical small-town fashion, he told me to pull out, go “that way,” and you’ll pass four or five houses and turn to the right.
“You will see it; it’s out there in a field,” he said.
His directions were right on target.
It’s always fun going to new places for ball games.
As is typically the case, the folks at Coffeeville were nice and accommodating to the press. They welcomed me and told me to enjoy my visit.
Traveling to different towns and different schools, it’s one of the reasons I love covering high school sports.
It actually started when I was in junior college. I started hanging out on the sidelines, with notebook and camera in hand, and covering football teams in Marion County, Ala.
I could handle the notebook pretty well but not the camera.
You’ve always heard the best way to learn is just to do it. That was me.
And I’m still learning – that’s every day in this business.
One of Holly High’s opponents in the jamboree last Friday night was Ethel.
Coach Donald Deans and I were talking before the game and discussing the location of Ethel.
And I’d been there before, while publisher of The Aberdeen Examiner and Amory Advertiser in Monroe County.
Ethel is in Attala County, near Kosciusko.
In fact, I feel like I’ve been just about everywhere in Mississippi, due to my newspaper work in Fulton, Aberdeen, Amory, Laurel and Holly Springs.
I’ve got my favorite football stadiums. Atop the list has to be Laurel High School’s Blair Stadium, where the Tornadoes host their foes “Between the Bricks.” There is no better Friday night atmosphere anywhere.
And last week wasn’t the last time I got a bit turned around when looking for the location of a game.
Once Ronnie Day and I ended up in a field in Arkansas, and there was no football stadium on that road.
But, I can never remember being late for a game. I always try to leave early in case my directions go sour.
It’s a new season. Support your favorite team. I’ve learned there’s no better experience than Friday night football.