Friday night football fever #110; catch it!

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 29, 2007

By the time all the little ghosts and goblins recover from their collective Halloween stomach aches, the high school football regular season will be history.

It seems like just yesterday we were swatting mosquitoes on muggy August nights. We were complaining that the 2007 prep season was starting earlier than usual, backed-up by the fact that there were three games scheduled prior to Labor Day.

But now, 12 weeks later, the end is here.

Boy, time sure flies when you’re having fun.

I left the News-Herald sports desk in 2000. I took full inventory of my professional career at that time and made the leap into the News Editor’s chair. I was 47 years-old at the time. Covering sports full-time is a young man’s job. I pictured myself some 10 years down the line, sitting on a hard floor along the baseline of a basketball court. I imagined what it would sound like to hear my aging bones pop as I attempted to rise to my feet. The end of my sports coverage career, one that dated back to the late 1970’s, was here.

But my love for Friday nights remained. High school football was always my favorite sport and I knew I couldn’t quit cold turkey. I couldn’t imagine not waking up and down the sidelines on Friday nights in the late summer and early fall, pen and pad in hand and a camera slug around my neck.

A deal was struck between my boss at the time as well as our new Sports Editor Stephen Dunn….I would help cover high school football.

That love affair continues, even after my boot up the newspaper ladder to Editor in 2005. I play the role of a football flunky on Fridays. Our Sports Editor Thadd White makes all the assignments and I go where I’m told. I don’t care if a game is played in the Wal-Mart parking lot…I’m there!

To date, I’ve seen every team in our coverage area play at least once.

I’ve watched coach Diego Hasty and his Hertford County Bears attempt to keep the winning tradition alive in Ahoskie with an all-rookie offensive backfield.

On the other side of that coin, I’ve enjoyed watching Bertie skipper Tony Hoggard get the most out of his veteran skilled-position players. My pre-season prediction for the Falcons….a conference championship….is one game away from reality.

Over at my alma mater, Greg Watford has done a bang-up job getting the Northampton-East program back on the winning track. The Rams will not win the league title, but a winning season is secured as well as a spot in the state play-offs.

The record may not show it, but coach Matt Biggy has the Gates County High School program going in the right direction. The Red Barons have only one win to their credit heading into Friday’s season finale, but they have played hard each snap. Of their eight losses to date, four have come by a combined 20 points, including one overtime defeat.

In the independent school ranks, our two teams here in the R-C area are at different ends of the football spectrum.

Coach Colin Sneed and his Northeast Eagles finished their regular season last Friday night with an 8-3 record. Northeast has some terrific talent this year, but never underestimate the influence of good coaching. Colin and his staff have done a wonderful job with those young men.

Over in Merry Hill, one of my all-time favorite high school coaches, Mike Dail, came out of retirement to take over a “baby-faced” Lawrence Academy team. After watching them play one time, I knew it was going to be a long season for the Warriors, but like coach Sneed, coach Dail knows football and Lawrence’s youngsters did manage to win two games this year. The future there looks promising.

Thanks are in order to every coach and every player who let this crusty old reporter share your sideline this year. It was yet another wonderful journey, one that’s not yet over with the state play-offs ready to start.

As long as I’m drawing a breath, you’ll know where to find me on Friday nights.