By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
According to the official calendar, high school football season began in August and ended this year on Dec. 1.
We all know it’s more complicated than that.
At the Daily Journal, planning for football season is typically under way in June and we’re knee-deep into our preseason work by the end of July.
First of all, we have to assemble all the schedules – it’s sometimes harder than you might think – and then do all the groundwork for our annual high school football preview edition. That’s a lot of phone calls and trips to schools for interviews and photographs.
This season, our Football Journal included previews of 50 schools.
We published the preview section on Sunday, Aug. 12 – the earliest date ever. And then we caught our collective breath and got ready for the actual start of the season.
Including the regular season and playoffs, we had reporters on the scene for more than 100 high school football games, from Aug. 17 all the way through Starkville’s victory in the Dec. 1 Class 5A championship game.
Some Friday nights, we covered as many as eight games involving area teams. That required a lot of coordination with writers from our Journal weekly newspapers, along with a additional group of trusted “stringers,” freelance writers we count on to bolster our high school coverage.
Brandon Speck joined our staff before the season began, but you’d seen his byline in the paper for several years as he worked for the Monroe Journal.
Three writers from our Journal Inc. weeklies – Melissa Meador at Monroe, Zach Adams at Itawamba and Kedrick Storey at the Southern Sentinel in Ripley – were also regular contributors. You also regularly saw the bylines of Blake Long, David Wheeler, Jay Tidwell and Paul Jones on game stories.
It’s probably the best group of writers we’ve ever assembled.
Gene Phelps, our senior writer, spent more time in the office on Fridays this fall as he helped manage our game-night tasks.
Inside the office, responsibility for getting all those stories onto pages fell to me, along with two others on the sports desk – Robbie Robertson, until his departure in October, then newcomer Jeff Roper. A former Journal employee, Josh Hanna, lent a hand several nights as Jeff was (quickly) learning the ropes.
On the phone
If you called in a score to the Journal office – and if you did, we thank you – you probably talked to one of several people manning our phones, including Andi, Barbara, Dawn and Gary. If you didn’t call in, one of those may have called you looking for help. My wife, Cathy – the most organized person I know – helped us track which games had been called in and sent scores to the Associated Press.
After the game summaries were called in, Brett Brown wrestled them into shape to be published. He’s an unsung hero in this whole process.
Our college writers, Brad Locke and Parrish Alford, also pitched in when they weren’t on the road for a Saturday day game.
Most of the fine photos to accompany our stories were provided by staff photographers Thomas Wells, Deste Lee and C. Todd Sherman.
Todd Vinyard and Shane Castile kept our web site and mobile users up to speed with timely scores each night.
That was our “football team,” and it doesn’t begin to account for all the other people behind the scenes who help print and deliver the paper to you.
Even now, our high school football season isn’t over. We’ll deliver our All-Area team on Sunday, then it probably won’t be too many days until I ask Brandon and Gene, “So, what are we planning for 2013?”
John L. Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been sports editor of the Daily Journal since 2006.