Central Wisconsin is unique in that the people in the small towns that dot our area revolve their lives around the games on Friday nights. Main Street is deserted as spectators fill the stands and grassy patches to cheer on their high school football players.
Like the players themselves, high school football dictated my life from late August to the week before Thanksgiving. Countless hours of preparation goes into producing approximately 15 minutes of unique prep football coverage every week. From a pool of eight conferences, home to a total of 66 teams, I selected a handful of games that were worth covering. Contests that could appeal to any viewer, no matter where they lived in the viewing area.
There are so many factors that go into picking which games to cover:
– number of photographers available
– conference standings and team records
– location and proximity of games
The last factor is probably the most important. Most photographers will cover two games, three at most. The games have to be at reasonable driving distance, which in Central Wisconsin is a challenge because contests can be so far apart geographically. Normally, a photog will drive up to an hour away for a game, knowing that he or she has to be back by 9:30pm. In addition, I coordinate with affiliates to get games that involve teams from our area but are played outside of our market. We’ll have as many as 16 games in one night. That means 16 sets of highlights, 16 scripts, and 16 scores to obtain before air.
In other words, madness between 9:30 and 10:35pm. Most weeks, we were still editing as the main news anchors hit the airwaves at 10pm. But somehow, we managed to put something on the air every week. What I love about high school football is all the storylines that we covered. Friday nights were about much more than showing highlights and giving the score. Conference championships were on the line. Some high school seniors were playing their last football games ever while others hoped they made a good impression in front of recruiters. Teams that haven’t made the playoffs in years were on the cusp of making history.
In the end, it did feel like producing “Election Night”-level coverage every week for 14 weeks. And it was certainly worth it.