I was back on the sideline last week. That’s the only place I know on Friday nights during football season.
Coming out of high school, I knew I wanted to go into journalism. So I stopped by the local newspaper office (in Hamilton, Ala.) and asked if they could use a want-to-be reporter.
That football season I was handed a notebook and camera and told, “Good luck.”
The editor, my good friend Les Walters, did show me his form of shorthand as far as taking notes on the sideline. And he gave me a few pointers with the camera.
The difficult part was learning to write down what happened on every play and trying to get a few quality photos, too. And then I had to take those notes and figure the game stats. Basically, I learned by doing.
That was 1980. I could count on one hand the number of Friday nights since then that I haven’t been on a sideline somewhere.
It’s really not a job. It’s fun. It’s something I truly enjoy. It’s stress release from all the pressures that come with working at a newspaper. I can go to a game and cover high school football players to the best of my ability and not worry about anything else.
I started by covering my alma mater, Hamilton, Ala., plus other Marion County, schools – Winfield, Guin (Marion County High School, Brilliant, Hackleburg and Bear Creek (Phillips High School). Then I moved on to Itawamba Agricultural High School, Mantachie and Itawamba Community College (Thursdays or Saturdays). Next were Aberdeen, Amory, Hamilton, Smithville and Hatley. Then I moved to follow Laurel, West Jones, South Jones, Northeast Jones and Jones Community College. That was followed by the trek I’m still on today, covering our teams in Marshall County – Holly Springs, Byhalia, Potts Camp, H.W. Byers and Marshall Academy.
That’s Aggies, Pirates, Red Raiders, Tigers, Panthers, Bears, Indians, Mustangs, Bulldogs, Panthers, Lions, Seminoles, Braves, Tornadoes, Bobcats, Hawks, Patriots and Cardinals.
I was asked last week how many high school football games I had covered since I got into journalism.
I replied, “Lots.”
Then I started multiplying it – 37 years times 10 games a season is pretty simple – 370 games. But that doesn’t include the junior college games and the high school playoff games. Then some nights I’ve gone to parts of two games on a Friday nights, mainly taking photos and then getting the stats later. It’s a lot more than 370.
This year, I missed Marshall Academy’s first game of the season in Montgomery, Ala. Sam Pearson, an assistant coach at MA and a good friend, said, “When I looked around on the sideline and did not see you, I was sort of lost.” Saturday, Aug. 12, I was at Holly High’s jamboree game and coach Donald Deans shook my hand and said, “Thanks for coming.”
One thing about it, without the help and support of the coaches over the years, I could not have performed my job responsibilities.
But, most of all, it’s about the high school kids. They work hard and deserve the coverage.