My name is Paul and I am a football addict.
But that’s not why the Ahwatukee Football News welcomes the new high school football season today with front page pictures, a hefty preview of the season, and Friday night’s games involving the Pride and the Thunder.
As the book “Friday Night Lights” so dramatically demonstrated in 1990, high school football is big – not just for the high schools but the community at large.
And one of Ahwatukee’s many endearing attractions is the presence of two high schools within its boundaries, providing an up-close-and-personal rivalry that reaches its apex every fall with the Tukee Bowl, where Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe High School face off for their annual brawl for local bragging rights. This year that ritual is slated for Sept. 30 at Mountain Pointe.
No, we’re not going to overlook the other fall sports in those schools. But, as documented in surveys across the country, football draws more eyeballs in Ahwatukee than any other sport.
I’m sure that statement rankles some hoops and hockey fans, to say nothing of the many young athletes and their fans who will be competing this fall in the wake of inspiring Summer Olympics performances.
Nevertheless, the reality can be seen at every home game in Ahwatukee, where bleachers are filled to capacity with local fans.
I’ll leave the reasons for the phenomenon of high school football (or even college or pro) to the talking heads on ESPN.
For the AFN, the Thunder and Pride contests are not just games; they’re community events, particularly when held at home.
Our coverage of these games is multifaceted, under the direction of our sports director Jason Skoda, who is beginning his 22nd season as chronicler of the prep gridiron. That career includes 12 seasons in Arizona, seven of them for the Ahwatukee Foothills News.
Jason and his crew will be covering every Thunder and Pride game. In addition, they’ll be covering many of the games involving high schools in Tempe, Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert because many readers in Ahwatukee like to know how the nearby teams are faring. Some of our readers even have attended those high schools.
Our game coverage begins every Friday night of the season, when Jason is preparing and posting game stories at ahwatukee.com.
On Wednesdays, we’ll be offering both review and preview, telling our readers about what happened to the DV and MP teams the previous Friday and sizing up the game that follows in two days.
The home games give Ahwatukee residents a chance to support the players, their boosters and the coaching staff. You’ll find local businesses stationed at the games as well, like Phoenix Phreeze, a mobile shaved ice vendor operated by Ahwatukee residents Kurt and Lucy Nederbrook.
It’s also important to underscore one major fact about our coverage: we have no dog in the hunt; we try to give both high schools equal treatment.
Many times, however, this is difficult.
“The hardest thing is trying to convince people I do not favor one school over the other,” Jason told me when I asked what his biggest challenge was.
“It doesn't come up as much as it did early on, and I hope that means there is a trust factor now. I essentially follow the better story 99 percent of the time. It might mean one school ends up getting more coverage than the other, but the only intent there is to bring the best stories possible to the community,” he continued.
“That doesn't mean there are not good human interest stories on teams that are struggling, but it helps if the team is having a good season.”
Naturally, we welcome your comments about our coverage, letters to the editor about the teams (no name calling, please), and tips on the news in high school sports that may have slipped past our notice.
Communicate with us and post comments https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=ahwatukee%20foothills%20newspaper
Good luck to both the Thunder and the Pride.
And Football Anonymous: don’t bother calling me. This is an addiction I’m not interested in kicking.
Reach Paul Maryniak at 480-898-5647 or email@example.com