This fall, for the first time in 10 seasons, I won’t be watching high school football.
Multiple surgeries have temporarily landed me on the 60-day disabled list.
I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the Tokay Tigers and the Lodi Flames, the Galt Warriors, the Liberty Ranch Hawks and the Jim Elliot Christian Eagles.
I’m going to miss the bright green Field Turf at the Grape Bowl, standing on the sidelines at Erv Hatzenbuhler Field, the sack dances and perfect spirals, the acrobatic cheerleaders and the roar of the hometown fans.
I’m going to miss Tokay female placekicker Bailey Smith boot extra points and interviewing Tigers head coach Louis Franklin and Flames head coach Todd Dillon after games. I’m going to miss watching the new head coaches — the Hawks Bryan Golder, the Warriors J.J. Woodward and the Eagles Jason Tacderan — in their first seasons.
I’m going to miss football. I already miss enjoying it. I’m going to miss Tokay announcer Bill Baumgartner in the Grape Bowl press box, Flames athletics director Erin Aitken’s warm smile and the smoldering intensity of her brother, Lodi assistant football coach Greg Bishop, on Friday nights.
I’m going to miss talking to excited high school kids who have just scored the game-winning touchdown or made the crucial sack on fourth down. I’m going to miss the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat on the face of every player.
I’m going to miss quarterbacks with happy feet, run-stuffers, triangle numbers, speed burners, possession receivers, bull rushers and ball hawkers. I’m going to miss the safeties, 2-point conversions, field goals, onside kicks and punt returns. I’m even going to miss the game officials, even if some of them were NFL replacement refs.
I’m going to miss the communities of Lodi and Galt under the Friday night lights out there supporting their respective teams. I’m going to miss the purple-and-gold Tiger fans, the Flame Fanatics, Warrior Pride, the Eagles’ Nest and those “Why Not Us?” Hawks.
I am going to miss hobnobbing with crack Sentinel staff photographers Jerry Tyson and Dan Evans before games and that frantic rush to beat that early Friday night press deadline.
But most of all, I’m going to miss the people of Lodi and Galt that make high school football great and my co-workers and colleagues that make my job the real pleasure that it is.
Contact sports reporter Richard Banas at firstname.lastname@example.org.