Blitz Live show ignites much enthusiasm with fans

Three Fridays ago to open up the high school football season, a wild-west shootout took place between Columbiana and Western Reserve, with Columbiana winning 63-52.

Last week, football legends Boardman and Cardinal Mooney high schools squared off, with Boardman pulling off a miraculous final-drive, comeback win.

This week, Lizzie Philibin broke a huge barrier. She is not the first girl to suit up for Valley high school football. But she is the first to do it for the 60-year-strong Mooney program. And she went 2-for-3 on her field goal kicks.

Mixed into those weeks, Damon Hodges inspired thousands of us – suiting up for Liberty High School on two prosthetic legs.

Struthers High School showed us the brawn of bulk does not necessarily mean a shortage of brains – with a combined 3.6 grade-point average on the line.

That is the start of the 2016 high school football season here in the Valley.

With one other noted addition:

The new Blitz Live show produced by The Vindicator.

It’s a bold launch for us. And while we’re measuring it in several key ways, I’m having most fun measuring it by the above story lines and watching them ignite audience and engagement in ways we have not seen with football in a long time.

Social media is a huge tool for all of us. And the above stories have set records for us every week on Twitter and Facebook. It makes me eager for the next two months.

The Vindy Blitz success is a great blend of old and new.

Blitz high school football coverage has been a staple for us for almost 10 years now. The Vindicator has always had – even before Blitz – the most staff, the most depth, the most diversity in its football coverage compared with other local media.

Adding to the quality of that work is the magic of our photo team. Some of the events listed above have been vividly captured by our guys. If you have not seen the Boardman coaches after the Week 2 Mooney win, or Damon Hodges, or Lizzie from Friday night – you must. They are sports images to behold, and they are on our website and Facebook pages.

I appreciate what our television friends do at the three stations. It’s widespread, and it’s rapid. But I enjoy the depth of getting into the games, the plays and the nuance. We’re best at it. And over the years, readers seem to agree as they find us every fall. Our fall readership pops in all measures.

And this season is our new Blitz Live web highlights program. As best as we can tell, it’s a rare item for newspapers. Pals from around Ohio and the country have popped in on Blitz Live on and have asked how it’s done.

Blitz Live plants three really smart and fun guys down at microphones at 6:30 every Friday night, and they don’t quit until 10:30 p.m.

As the games unfold live and unscripted, our guys – Greg Gulas, Sean Ferguson and Corey Crisan – provide the latest scores, the context and the depth that fans want. They are live on your phone or on your computer as you sit in a stadium, stand at a workplace or chill in a dorm room hours away from the Valley.

You can listen.

But you can also watch. Making the viewing more cool is when our reporters out in the stadiums give live video reports from the game.

Friday night, when Lizzie Philibin strolled off the Stambaugh Stadium field – officially completing her first game as a member of Mooney football, Blitz Live and reporter Charles Grove were the only media there delivering such a special moment to viewers and listeners. Lizzie’s smile was infectious.

Blitz Live does it in a time span and delivery mode that is the new standard for many of us:

“I want it now and wherever I am at via my phone.”

Perhaps two of the most fun measures of Blitz Live’s launch are these two incidents.

Our media friends down the road at WKBN-TV took some fun jabs at us in prep for Week 1. It had some missteps, and they took to Twitter to poke in jest. The poking has stopped.

More critical to us is funding, and after seeing Week 1 in action, the great folks at Haus Auto Group invested a nice chunk of change into our effort. We’re glad to have them aboard as we are the thousands of people who have found us each week.

If you are a Valley football fan and you have not bumped into Blitz Live, look for it next Friday at 6:30 – anywhere you are on the planet.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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