It was good to view televised high school football on Friday night but don't expect an overdose of it. The national networks like the bottom line--that's why college football broadcasts have been increased to Wednesdays, Thursdays and, yes, Fridays--the traditional night when the high school sport is played
Friday's telecast by ESPN2 of the inter-state contest between De La Salle High of Concord, Calif. against Evangel Christian Academy of Shreveport, La., was the exception rather than the rule. It provided a 'hook' for the TV network which won't be a regular lure for high school broadcasts. De La Salle entered the game with an all-time regular win streak of 144 games. Evangel, an eight-time state champion the last 10 years, was poised for a 'big year' and scheduled opponents in six states--Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Missouri and California.
The 'hook' of a match-up between a team with a remarkable victory streak against an ambitious challenger from another part of the land was enough for the networks to abandon their regularly scheduled college broadcast on Friday night. From that standpoint, it was a good idea. We never liked the idea of televised Friday night college football games because they were infringing on the only night of the week when the majority of high school games were played.
We would much prefer to view a high school game in person than on television but it's better, on Friday nights, to view a televised prep game than one involving the colleges. And when that game matches two teams, which were first nationally ranked by this pollster, it took on added significance for the current compiler of the Student Sports FAB 50 rankings. In fact, we included De La Salle in our ratings in 1987, before the current win streak started and other national media jumped on the bandwagon. And, in 1999, our FAB 50 rankings were the only major ranking to tab Evangel Christian No. 1 despite the fact some misinformed media credit a national newspaper with that ranking.
Friday night's game--a 27-10 De La Salle victory, was a solid journalistic presentation by ESPN2. In fact, there is no comparison to ESPN's national telecasts last basketball season of the 'LeBron Tour' involving current NBA player LeBron James and the St. Vincent-St. Mary team from Akron, Ohio. Those basketball telecasts were filled with more broadcast cheerleading and references to questionable media rankings than examination of the subject. Friday night's football telecast gave on-target analysis of each team's strengths and history without the constant cheerleading, etc.
In fact, it presented some of the controversies involving the Evangel football program including a civil suit against head coach Dennis Dunn and the sudden exit last summer of long-time quarterback coach Johnny Booty and his son, star quarterback John David Booty. He's now the backup QB at USC after graduating early.
Both the on-site commentators Dave Ryan and Rod Gilmore plus the ESPN studio analysts Trev Alberts and Mark May offered insightful opinions on those situations as well as the changing nature of high school football in recent years. It was refreshing to hear those observations as well as inserted opinions on high school football by ESPN college analyst Kirk Herbstreit, former De La Salle star and current New York Giant Amani Toomer and ABC's Monday Night NFL analyst John Madden. And, like the regular Friday night telecast of a college game, the game featured inserts of a high school contest. This week, it was in Florida between Palm Bay and Cocoa, which turned out to be a Palm Bay romp.
Too bad another Florida match-up between unbeaten Miami rivals Carol City and Northwestern was shifted from Friday night to Saturday and moved to Pro Player Stadium because of increased fan interest. That would have been a natural for a Florida game matching two teams ranked in the Student Sports FAB 50 instead of just one team ranked by other less-experienced pollsters.