Maestro, let's have the soundtrack:
Actually, let's make it a double:
I have always been a huge supporter of high school football in all its forms. Part of that is the fact that I'm just a football nut. I'd watch squirrels do battle on the gridiron if you could get them to form up in the wishbone and tackle properly.* More than that, however, I credit my four years of high school football for many of the most important lessons I've learned in life, and for helping me develop many of the closest friendships I've had.
There are a lot of things to love about high school pigskin. Among them are the following:
Nicknames. High school football fields are a great place to pick up a great nickname. Heck, just in my graduating class we had "Box Turtle" (an offensive lineman who was as wide as he was tall), "Booter" (our punter/placekicker/4th string defensive end), and "Ant Bug" (I got nothing).
Bands. What high school bands lack in musical chops they make up for in variety. There are the ones who play it straight down the middle with "Louie, Louie" year after year. And I've heard Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" at least 2,564 times. Not to mention the bands who take a more original approach, and a risk or two. Take for example the Peach County Trojan marching band's memorable rendition of "Who Run It" by 3-6 Mafia, which sadly is no more, since the principal googled the lyrics. If your local band isn't this funky, you're doing it wrong.
Announcers. Being a high school football announcer is kind of like being a novelist. You could probably go to some sort of school for either, but the result would likely be pathetic compared to the untrained naturals out there:
The smell of a freshly mown football field. There's nothing quite like it, especially the ones that the guys from the booster club sweat over and toil over and take a lot of pride in.
Concession stands. $2.00 for a box of Sweet Tarts? Why not, it's for a great cause. The 4-H Club should get a new van, dammit. I want them to have it. I also believe that any chili dog consumed at a high school football game is 500% better than a hotdog consumed anywhere else other than Sanford Stadium. Or maybe the Varsity. And possibly the Pool Room in Cordele. Actually, I have kind of a chili dog problem, now that I think about it.
Pickup games behind the bleachers. If you want to find the stars of tomorrow, this is where they are. This is also where 56% of family healthcare insurance deductibles are met.
Pregame prayers and postgame handshakes. Because the whole thing is about more than learning how to block and tackle.
When the 3rd stringers get to play. Even the backup kicker at an SEC school lives a life that usually involves free tuition, adoring fans, and catered meals. If they don't play it's frustrating for them. But that frustration finds its polar opposite when some tenth grader who hasn't seen the field all season gets in and gets the chance to make a play and get noticed.
"Get Back" coaches. They're like air traffic controllers, except they shepherd 15 year olds instead of 747s.
Legends. Every town has one, or ten. Some of them go on to stardom in the SEC and NFL. Some never quite have that kind of luck. But when you mention the name to the old-timers up near the press box, they'll all nod in unison. I remember my uncle telling me about the game he played against Herschel Walker in the state playoffs. Johnson County outfitted the Goal Line Stalker in tear away jerseys with his number 43 on them. He went through 4 of them in that game. And afterward, the coach said "Boys, you just saw the best football player you'll ever see." He wasn't wrong.
Feel free to include your own thoughts on what makes high school football great in the comments, along with your thoughts on this weekend's high school action (which you can follow live on the Georgia Public Broadcasting website or your local GPTV station). Until later . . .
*Actually I assume squirrels would run the Malzahn offense. They're tricky little bastards, and I expect lots of misdirection and ball fakes would be their M.O.