By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Ten reasons to love high school football
Monday, August 23, 2010
Who could equal Joe Montana or Dan Marino? Who will leave fans talking for decades the way Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett both have? Who has the talent to follow the paths laid by Steve Breaston and Darrelle Revis? They, too, were once little-known freshmen. But their legends took root when they became Friday night stars. So each fall, we ask: "Who will be next?"
There's nothing like high school football.
As soon as one season ends, the anticipation begins to build for the next season to start.
Those who are truly into high school football know what it's all about. There's a feeling like no other -- a feeling that touches all of the senses. Players, coaches, fans can smell it, see it, touch it, hear it, taste it. It's all-consuming.
With that feeling in mind, we kick off our Countdown to High School Football series with 10 reasons people can't wait for high school football start:
1. Great players
Some of the best ever have come from Western Pennsylvania. The games offer a sneak peek at some of the best players in the country. We get to see them before they hit the national stage in college and possibly the NFL.
Friday night football is one of the best traditions in Western Pennsylvania. Each Friday, tens of thousands of people get off work and start their weekend with Friday night football. It's a great way to start a fall weekend.
3. Big plays
A breakaway run. A tightrope-walking touchdown catch down the sideline. A bone-jarring hit. These are the plays written about in newspapers and highlighted on television. These are plays that heat up cold nights and keep the concession stand lines short.
Arguably, rivalry games are the lifeblood of high school football. Games mean more when bordering schools bang heads. Friends and foes from neighboring districts become enemies as opposing teams clash for bragging rights. The beauty is that conference standings and team records go by the wayside, and memories of rivalries' past dance through the stands.
5. Change in the weather
Shorts and tank tops are traded for sweatshirts and blue jeans so fans are ready for chilly fall nights. It's a break from the 90-plus degree heat, and it's a far cry from 2 feet of snow. Climate is what can give Friday night football its flavor.
Official class reunions are held every so many years, but unofficial gatherings happen each Friday night in football stadium bleachers. The physiques have softened and the hair has grayed, but what never fade are the relived memories of that game in 1960 or that touchdown pass from 1992.
7. Human nature
Football lets people exercise their aggression in a controlled atmosphere. Players get to push, pull and throw others to the ground in pursuit of a goal. Fans get to sing the praises of their team when they knock their opponents around. Off the field, that's considered a little rude. On the football field, it's the expected mode of operation. Players and fans can let loose. Football is a direct appeal to the inner bully that lurks in us all. That bully can run wild for 48 minutes.
My team can beat your team. Who did the newspaper pick this week? A daylong discussion of which team will win ensues over an opinion. One score, which is calculated not by educated reasoning but by guesswork and gut feelings, can stir the pot of opinions. Those who make these long-awaited prognostications can be hated one week and loved the next -- an expert one day, a fool the next.
Yards rushing, passing, receiving. Tackles. Sacks. Interceptions. Players, parents, coaches and fans keep track of stats, looking forward to seeing the numbers grow, and comparing them to those of foes and rivals. Die-hard math fans can be found at high school football games. "Thirty-six yards plus a 27-yard pickup is 63 yards total, bucco. Make sure you get that right in tomorrow's paper!"
10. Heinz Field awaits
For eight lucky teams, the long season culminates with four title games on the North Side, in the Rooney's palace, the once-dubbed "Mustard Bowl." The destination of dreams is where the sod is beaten and bashed, and the Steelers' logo and hash marks are smeared by the footsteps of WPIAL champions.
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