At the beginning of my high school filming assignment I was given a list of about 10 North Carolina schools that the National Prep Network wanted film on. Several of them are about 3 hours away and I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to them this season. Another handful of them are within a half hour from my house, with another 2 (Shelby and Crest) about an hour away. I’ve already filmed most of the closer schools and the remaining couple happened to be on bye weeks, which left Shelby as my only option this week. It just so happens that they were playing at Lincolnton, which is actually closer miles-wise than Shelby, but further north. Being fairly new to the area, I only knew that this was more “in the middle of nowhere.” However, that usually means that high school football is more important since there is little else to do on a Friday night in September if you’re not cruising. Little did I know that the word “cruise” would be a minor theme this evening.
True to form I arrived at 5:30, an hour and a half early, because I thought I’d be sitting in traffic and of course there was no traffic. But there was a line waiting to get in to the stadium. I stood in line for about 3 minutes and just by standing in line and listening I obtained that this was the most important thing happening in town. Bear in mind that I was here to film Shelby, not Lincolnton. I know little about what the National Prep Network does with these tapes, I don’t know if I’m sent to get film on one particular player or the entire team, but I just assumed that since Lincolnton wasn’t on the list that they were going to be a push over. That’s probably just my own ignorance, sorry Lincolnton. I knew I was wrong when I heard someone say that people with season tickets were allowed to go in first. Season tickets? For high school football? Geez. Then I saw an entire booth set up where Lincolnton apparel and souvenirs were being sold and there was a line. Then I saw the most impressive high school press box I’ve ever seen. Then I saw the home stands fill up with people laying beach towels on metal bleachers to keep them cool from the sun. By 6:15, you couldn’t get a seat between the 30-yard lines on the home side. Then I saw a Sonic Drive-In mascot dressed as a Cherry Limeade drink. This crowd is for real. Every other game I’ve been to has had sparse crowds. This one was full with people wearing the home colors and there was a buzz in the crowd a half hour before kickoff. As it turned out, kickoff was at 7:30, not 7:00.
Since the last row on the home side was already filled up, I hustled over to the away stands to get a decent perch. They were concrete again with unmaintained trees hanging over the fence. It was just too uncomfortable a location to film from, so I managed to track down the athletic director with the help of a few Lincolnton coaches. He gave me permission to film from the roof of the press box with the caveat that I don’t get him in trouble.
I walked into the press box and without a word a guy pointed me in the direction of the roof access stairs. Apparently if you just look like you belong and carry a tripod you can get just about anywhere. It should be noted that press boxes generally have a spread of food from the concession stand for coaches and media types. Since I don’t have a media credential and I’m generally uninvited, I haven’t taken any food…yet. Free food is just a distraction and free drinks are an invitation for bladder issues.
A few other notes before kickoff:
- The PA announcer informed the crowd that there was still space available for ads on the scoreboard. The ads will remain for life. The life of the scoreboard.
- The whole place smelled like gravy.
- Lincolnton players did a neck stretch where they were in push-up position with their heads on the ground. They stretched their necks a little, then did a forward flip and landed in the crab walk position. This probably would have made me quit the team if I were asked to do it in high school.
- There was no cannon at this game, but there was a big bell that got wheeled in with the Lincolnton band. They’re “The Band with the Bell.” You’ll hear it in the footage.
- The Lincolnton mascot is the wolves, so a howl was played over the P.A. Shelby is the Golden Lions.
- The sun had set before kickoff, that was a big help to me.
- Lincolnton’s colors are yellow and black. I don’t mean Piscataway yellow and black, I mean Ampipe/All the Right Moves, yellow and black.
I didn’t see Tom Cruise anywhere, but he could have been off serving his suspension and canoodling with the lovely Lea Thompson.
- Shelby’s kicker was only taking two steps and hitting 40-yard field goals in warm-ups. As far as I know that’s impressive for high school.
- Andy Williams was announced as the winner of a promotion that gave him $25 in free gas.
- Perhaps the most questionable thing that I’ve seen during all of these games happened when Shelby’s players ran onto the field right before kickoff.
They ran through their banner, then one player slid baseball-style at the 40-yard line. Then, about 10 other players did the same to form a circle. The entire team then piled onto them, some just gingerly laying on top, others doing leaping flips. If you’ve even been on the bottom of one of these things, you know how stupid it is do one before the game even starts.
As for the game itself, it’s difficult sometimes to tell if you’re watching a defensive struggle or two inept offenses struggling. I think this was the former. The score was 7-0 Lincolnton at halftime. There was no shortage of big plays, but every one them was called back. The referee, who was mic’d up, seemed to enjoy needling the home crowd by killing their big play buzz. A successful fake punt, an interception run back for a touchdown, and a long punt return all by Lincolnton were all called back due to penalties. Just because they didn’t officially happen, though, doesn’t mean they won’t be included in my highlight reel.
At one point in the fourth quarter there was even a horse collar penalty called on Shelby that was waved off, because the runner fell forward. As the ref explained to the irate crowd, a horse collar can only be called if the runner is pulled down and backwards. I’ve never seen a team get jobbed by so many big penalties and still win so handily. Lincolnton prevailed 21-0 to move to 4-0. Shelby has lost their last 2 games by the same score, they are now 2-2.
Ultimately all of this excitement pales in comparison to the halftime show. The Lincolnton band, “The Band with the Bell” entertained us with songs from Top Gun! Even though they didn’t include “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”, they did nail “Highway to the Danger Zone.” Needless to say, it took my breath away.