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Friday night lights on again



Published: Fri, August 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



What is it about high school football that piques our interest?

Is it the dedication of young athletes who gather in the summer to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team? Success is often determined under the day's sun and in the high humidity. It's determined by the ability to trade summer temptations for strong work habits.

Is it the drive that allows a below-average player to work himself into a starter, a talented player to solidify his position with nothing but consistency?

Dedication

Is it the long hours put in by a coach, who not only gives himself to his team but carries on responsibilities at home?

Is it the anticipation of another season and its accompanying dreams? Each team is as good as the next. Each team can win a league title, advance into the playoffs and play for a state championship. Equality reigns, and it feels so good.

Is it the neatly-painted field and the fresh-cut grass?

Is it the drive to the next community with family and friends, the personal conversation -- about the upcoming game and everything else in the world -- that takes place along the way?

Is it the pregame dinner gathering at the local diner?

Is it a stream of cars, decorated with painted windows, catchy slogans and colorful flags, stretching for miles en route to a community?

Is it the smell of burning leaves that defines the season?

Is it the autumn weather that can change in an instant, forcing players to slip and slide, blow on their palms for warmth or dig mud out from under their shoes?

Is it the bright lights emanating from the stadium, seemingly illuminating the entire town, every Friday night?

Is it the pounding rhythm of the bass drum heard outside the stadium?

Is it the band, with members wearing school colors proudly, strutting its way through the gate, providing a deafening volume and boosting school spirit?

Is it the voice of the public address announcer, who helps to set each stadium apart?

Entrance

Is it the line of players walking intently out of the locker room, headed toward the field, led by their captains and coaches?

Is it the click of players' cleats against the pavement?

Is it the sprint players break into, the turn they make and the paper tunnel, held by cheerleaders, through which they crash?

Is it the crack of shoulder pads and helmets, players' growls, coaches' barks? Is it the group of coaches wearing headsets and sitting in the press box, examining the field and sending in information to the sideline?

Is it a high school sweetheart wearing her boyfriend's uniform number, standing in the bleachers, cheering one minute, overcome with concern the next?

Is it the disappointment of injuries and the opportunity given to an underclassman who is called into duty for his hobbling teammate?

Is it the plays made by teen-agers that often defy logic, the kind that make you stare in disbelief and wonder how they did it?

In the end

Is it the emotions that affect players, coaches and fans following a win or loss, when the reality of the final result sets in?

Is it the way a season unfolds, the teams that move up the state ladder and draw attention from others?

Is it the excitement of a playoff hunt, the relief or letdown of who's in, who's not, and how long a team can remain in the race?

What is it about high school football that piques our interest?

Possibly, that it begins in full tonight?

XBrian Richesson covers high school sports for The Vindicator. Write him at richesson@vindy.com.




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