By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com
I have no idea how many different high school football stadiums I visited during my 34 years as sports editor of The Anderson News. Off the top of my head I listed over 60 and I am sure I left several out.
Some of those facilities are gone now, replaced by newer more modern showplaces. For some the school has relocated and the football stadium has gone too.
(And in the time it took me to type those first two paragraphs, I thought of three high school stadiums I had not counted in my mind and a handful of college stadiums that had hosted high school games. So let’s just say I had been to a bunch while covering the Anderson County Bearcats.)
When working a beat, at least the way I did, it was hard to always see the nuances. Oh there are some that just jump out at you, like the caboose press box at Estill County or the incredible press box at Boyle County that was decades ahead of its time. Sometimes you remember something that sticks out, like the graveyard near the stadium at Meade County or a rickety press box where you just go outside and watch from the stands.
But usually you remember events around a game. I remember Anderson’s game at Bourbon County in 1989 because it was snowing and sleeting on an already soaked field. By halftime, it was almost impossible to identify players. I remember the Bearcats playoff game at Louisville Doss in 2008 because it was so bitterly cold that my bones were literally aching by halftime.
But once the game begins, I became so focused on the action at hand, it was about the gridiron in front of me, 120 yards long and 53 yards across.
And I just thought of three more places from where I worked games.
So many of those games run together. While I can remember key plays — a 99-yard touchdown run or a game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down in the final seconds — they run together, but I also can tell you every game was different.
Even though the fields are the same size — at least they are supposed to be — every field, and every stadium is different. Harrison County’s is on a hilltop. Lincoln County’s is called Death Valley.
And every community is different. Showcasing high school football can be a positive way to showcase the community. I remember driving to Rockcastle County in 1992 and being greeted by red and blue banners with Rocket slogans almost as soon as I crossed the county line. I have been in other communities that didn’t seem to know a game was on.
This year, since I am no longer on a beat, I have taken the opportunity to visit schools just to watch, shoot some photos and write a story if one becomes available. There’s no deadline, no word count quota, just look around and take it in. It’s been great therapy but it’s also underscored my long-held belief that fall Friday nights can be special times for a community.
At LaRue County, the Hawks brought awareness to pediatric cancer when they played Campbellsville on Sept. 13. Three weeks later, Pulaski County’s theme was tackling breast cancer. I had seen similar programs in the past.
While I was not in attendance when Franklin County hosted Anderson County, fans of both schools dressed in pink in support of a young lady who had just graduated from Anderson in May but died as the result of injuries suffered in a wreck in which the driver of another car was allegedly fleeing from police and under the influence.
At nearly every place I have been, there’s been some sort of FCA or church-presence in the pre-game tailgating. I have to admit, I loved the banner the Pulaski County cheerleaders designed for the Maroons to break through prior to their game with South Laurel. It was in conjunction with the breast cancer awareness and referenced Phillippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ.”
It’s sometimes easy to say that or easy to say God is blessing me during successful times, but praising Him in all things can be difficult. We sometimes forget that the person on the other side of the line often has the same faith and has been afforded the same opportunity.
Regardless of where we are or the circumstances around us, we can show pride in ourselves, community and school. And most of all, we can, and should, thank God for allowing us the opportunity to play or enjoy games like football.
Cherish those Friday nights. There’s nothing like them.