Friday night lights have returned

Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Few days have as much significance each year for so many people as Friday.

Specifically, Friday night.

High school football.

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The “official” start of high school football — a prime indicator of colder weather to come — is Friday night.

Other indicators are the first day of college football (which will be here in another week) and the first day of dove season (the football-vs.-hunting calendar conflicts begin).

Some schools already started their seasons last week. The rain was a poor substitute for fall’s smells and colors.

And the two Selma schools that started their seasons couldn’t find the right combination for the victory (Central Christian Academy fell to North River 48-4, and Meadowview Christian School lost to Tuscaloosa Academy 35-7).

Now everyone else gets their chance to hit the field Friday night in temperatures that are predicted to be in the mid-60s (could fall be here?) and showers before Saturday’s storms (oh, that explains it).

For every sports editor in the country, the other indicator of the arrival of fall is the annual high school football preview section. Also known as “the football tab.”

For sports editors, football tabs can be either a blessing or a curse because of “outside factors” that usually don’t play into the daily business of producing a newspaper.

A special section such as the football tab requires extra attention. It provides extra information about high school football teams and their opponents. It gives an extra look at each team’s players. And it requires extra time and work to produce.

So when the sports editor is the sports staff, a lot of help has to come from the high school football coaches. Thank goodness, the coaches in Selma and its surrounding counties have been conscientious and helpful in putting this year’s football tab together.

About a month ago, they were sent questionnaires about different aspects of their teams going into Friday night’s opening contest. Coaches were asked to tell about their returning players and the different specialties on each team (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, etc.) Then they faxed them back to the paper, along with a roster and a team picture, if they had one.

Because the questionnaires come out so early before the season opener, most coaches don’t have a clear idea of who’s going to play where unless the players were returnees. And team pictures usually aren’t taken until the week before the game (too late for football tabs), so the photos don’t make it to the football tab in time.

Another unique feature affecting the football tab is the number of first-year coaches in the area. First-year coaches usually come into a program with a limited knowledge of what to expect from the players, the school and the supporters, much less the newspaper.

In the Selma area, the first-year head football coaches include Darryl Burns (Dallas County), Brian King (Morgan Academy), Kenny Strong (Meadowview Christian School) and Dredrick Bell (Wilcox Central). In only his second year is Selma’s Foster Davis, while Central Christian Academy’s Darrell Walker is reviving football with an eight-man league.

The football tab tries to represent each area team accurately and completely. And it may fall short in ways, but it comes closer in most.

So when you see those extra 32 pages in Friday’s pages, we hope you think they’re special too.