2019 Year In Review
I say this almost every year, but things didn’t go quite as I planned. Of the original plans I made in the preseason, I only saw 61 of games I planned. Trips out west of course changed things, but other things such as giving up on Cowanesque Valley, and switching things with a trip to Norwalk, Ohio due to things changing.
The playoffs were fairly consistent. Buffalo, Indianapolis, Hershey, and Texas. I missed a few games getting sick. I didn’t really go out of the way for anything new except for Georgia. But, it’s not like I haven’t seen championship games in Atlanta previously. I was expecting games at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In total, I only paid to attend 20 games this season, however. The eight Georgia games and 12 Texas games. Every other game was as a sideline photographer/reporter for PA Football News.
For lifetime totals, I’ve now seen 1,164 different teams play in 336 different stadiums. I saw 191 different teams play 98 games in 49 different stadiums in 16 different states.
In games I’ve attended, there were 5,087 total points scored, for an average of 51.91 points per game (a 0.07/game drop from last year). The cumulative score was 3592-1495, for an average score of 36.65 to 15.26. Compared to 37.13-14.92 last year. There were 10 shutouts this season, and the most points were 74 scored by Southern Columbia in a PIAA Class 2A Championship. Most total points in a game, was 110 between Blum (TX) and McLean (TX) in a 6-man championship game in Texas.
States I watched games in:
25 – Pennsylvania
14 – Texas
12 – Iowa
8 – New York
8 – Georgia
6 – Ohio
6 – Colorado
6 – Indiana
3 – Kansas
3 – North Dakota
2 – Utah
1 – North Carolina
1 – Wyoming
1 – Montana
1 – Wisconsin
1 – Illinois
Non-Championship Playoff Games by State:
12 – Iowa
5 – New York
2 – Minnesota
1 – North Dakota
1 – Wisconsin
1 – Illinois
1 – Pennsylvania
Championship Games by State:
12 – Texas
8 – Georgia
6 – Indiana
6 – Pennsylvania
States of Teams I’ve watched:
47 – Pennsylvania
28 – Texas
24 – Iowa
15 – New York
12 – Colorado
12 – Indiana
11 – Ohio
6 – Kansas
4 – Utah
4 – Minnesota
2 – Maryland
2 – North Carolina
2 – North Dakota
2 – Montana
2 – Wisconsin
2 – Illinois
1 – D.C.
1 – West Virginia
Teams I’ve seen multiple times:
3x – Pittsburgh Perry (PA)
2x – Clymer/Sherman/Panama (NY), Western Beaver (PA), Atwater Waterloo (OH)
Most points (one team):
74 – Catawissa Southern Columbia v. Pittsburgh Avonworth (12/6, 74-7) [Championship]
70 – Fort Washington National Christian (MD) v. Pittsburgh Imani Christian (8/24, 70-6)
63 – Youngstown East v. Pittsburgh Perry (9/7, 63-6)
63 – Flagler/Hi-Plains (CO) v. Weldona Weldon Valley (10/18, 63-26) (6-Man)
61 – Waynesburg West Greene v. Cameron (WV) (8/26, 61-20)
61 – Kit Carson (CO) v. Cheraw (CO) (9/26, 61-20) (6-Man)
Most points (combined):
110 – Blum (58) v. McLean (52) (12/18, Arlington, TX) (6-Man) [Championship]
95 – Rising Star (59) v. Stephenville Three Way (38) (9/21, Rising Star, TX) (6-Man)
89 – Wichita Southeast (51) v. Wichita North (38) (9/19, Wichita, KS)
89 – Flagler/Hi-Plains (63) v. Weldona Weldon Valley (26) (10/18, Weldona, CO) (6-Man)
87 – Aledo (45) v. Missouri City Fort Bend Marshall (42) (12/21, Arlington, TX) [Championship]
Fewest points (one team):
0 – Bessemer Mohawk v. New Castle Laurel (8/23, 21-0)
0 – Pittsburgh Northgate v. Norwalk St. Paul (8/31, 55-0)
0 – New Bethlehem Redbank Valley v. Coudersport (10/12, 56-0)
0 – Lakewood (CO) v. Arvada Ralston Valley (CO) (10/24, 42-0)
0 – Kenmare/Bowbells/Burke Central (ND) v. Bowman County (ND) (10/26, 52-0)
0 – Savage (MT) v. Wibaux (MT) (10/26, 36-0) (6-Man)
0 – Reedsburg (WI) v. DeForest (WI) (11/1, 20-0)
0 – Franklinville/Ellicottville (NY) v. Clymer/Sherman/Panama (NY) (11/9, 22-0)
0 – Buffalo McKinley (NY) v. Buffalo South Park (NY) (11/9, 38-0)
0 – Denton Guyer (TX) v. Austin Westlake (TX) (12/21, 24-0) [Championship]
Fewest points (combined):
13 – Industry Western Beaver (7) v. Munhall Steel Valley (6) (10/5, Industry, PA)
17 – Farrell (10) v. Altoona Bishop Guilfoyle (7) (OT) (12/5, Hershey, PA) [Championship]
19 – Wilson Fike (12) v. Erwin Triton (7) (10/1, Erwin, NC)
20 – DeForest (20) v. Reedsburg (0) (11/1, DeForest, WI)
21 – New Castle Laurel (21) v. Bessemer Mohawk (0) (8/23, New Castle, PA)
09/20 – Hays (13) v. Liberal (12), Liberal, KS
12/05 – Farrell (10) v. Altoona Bishop Guilfoyle (7), Hershey, PA
12/13 – Buford (17) v. Warner Robins (14), Atlanta, GA
I’m not going to do lists this year. It tends to be the same year-to-year. For Fan Support, Texas is the preeminent favorite. Almost 48,000 were in attendance for the North Shore-Duncanville rematch. Sure, they’re indoors, etc. But, no other state comes close.
The sad reality is that attendance is dropping in Ohio drastically since I started really keeping track. And even more startling, the PIAA 6A final had a larger crowd than the OHSAA D1 final. I know there’s contributing circumstances to it. But, that’s still a shock when you consider some crowds Ohio used to regularly get. And PA saw a slight rebound this year after years of staggeringly low attendance. A few new teams helped, along with relatively great weather. And seeing Cathedral Prep and Imhotep Charter not going for a fourth straight 4A title game instead saw Thomas Jefferson against Dallas.
Some states that surprise you would be Indiana. A basketball state, but their title games at Lucas Oil Stadium had over 40,000 fans between the two days. Georgia had large crowds, despite Friday rain and $20 presale tickets and $23 at the gate. With the added $20 parking.
My games around Colorado and the Upper Plains were about what I would expect. Big crowd for Rising Star-Three Way, while Liberal had a tiny crowd. Wiggins, Colorado was very disappointing. New York is a regular surprise for me. Yes, crowds are smaller overall than other states. But the fans that do show up are some of the loudest and most ardent fans compared to Ohio or Pennsylvania. One of my most memorable games was in Fredonia at the Orange Bowl. An incredible night of football at a little wooden stadium that was packed to standing room surrounding the field.
Quality of Play:
Texas wins. No doubt. But, Georgia is up there right near the top. Georgia has speed. A common theme of the southeast. The football is a little less physical as it’s more “run by” than “run through”. Upper midwest is much more “fundamental football”. Blocking and tackling are much stronger parts of the game. Might not have the fastest guys on the field. But, they’re going to play more as a team than a collection of really fast key position players that are going to just escape the hits. PA and NY are definitely beneath Ohio, but the gap isn’t that big at the top. It’s the middle to bottom rung teams where you see the huge drop off. Youngstown East over Pittsburgh Perry is a prime example of that fact in motion. Similarly built and size teams, similar standing among local teams, and Youngstown East absolutely destroyed them.
Overall enjoyment of the ‘events’ that I attended:
1. Iowa Semifinals
2. Texas Finals
3. Indiana Finals
4. New York Section 6 Finals
5. Pennsylvania Finals
6. Minnesota Playoffs in Fargodome
7. Georgia Finals
8. Western PA v. Everyone
From a fan perspective, the ONLY benefit to Texas is that the games are a bit better because they are the state finals rather than semifinals. Crowds and atmospheres are better. However, price and access become a bit of an issue. Iowa Semifinals are 4 games a day for three days. $10 per session (4 sessions total), and $10 parking. While Texas are three games a day for four days. Tickets are $15 per day and parking is now $20. And though the large crowds can make for an awesome atmosphere, getting in and out and moving around the stadium becomes an issue due to so many people. But, this advantage is, to me, very narrow and much more on personal preference. I’ve seen Texas finals for 9 straight years and three times seen the semifinals in Iowa.
In the middle of the list, Indiana is benefited by its great stadium. Cheap prices ($10 tickets and $10 parking), and the whole lower bowl is open. Unlike some games at other NFL venues, such as Minnesota or Pittsburgh, where only a few sideline sections are open. Or even AT&T Stadium where they open the stadium up in sections.
The New York playoffs are interesting. And I’ve written about them extensively in the past. To refresh, the NYSPHSAA is broken up into 11 sections. Long Island consists of Sections 8 and 11 (Nassau and Suffolk County, respectively). Though members of the NYSPHSAA, they do not participate in the state playoffs. Instead they play for sectional and Long Island championships. New York public schools play in the PSAL, and aren’t members of the NYSPHSAA. Buffalo City Schools were once not a part of the NYSPHSAA, however joined Section 6 not too long ago. Private schools may be members, but the Buffalo area Catholic schools are instead members of the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association, and the NYC area private schools are members of the NYCHSFL. The ‘mainland’ of New York is broken up into the 9 remaining sections. The western half of the state is Section 6 (Buffalo), Section 5 (Rochester), Section 3 (Syracuse) and Section 4 (Binghamton and Elmira areas). The eastern half are then the Section 1 and 9 on opposing sides of the Hudson River north of NYC. Section 2 is the Albany area. And Section 7 and 10 are the northern parts of the state. The adirondacks, the Lake Champlain area, etc. Section 7 and 10 hold a ‘joint’ playoff. While the other seven sections hold sectional playoffs. NYSPHSAA allows schools to play up to ten games, and up to three rounds of state playoffs. To play sectional playoffs, means shortening the regular season. Section 6 holds their championships at New Era Field, home of the Bills. Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, etc. With the sectional final round, the state tends to put all of the games in one location. Usually two games on Friday and three games on Saturday. I’ve personally seen sectional finals in 3, 5, and 6. Regularly seeing Section 6 finals. This year was no different. They’re fun. Whether you’re media or just as a fan. They’re relatively cheap. Free parking. Seating is only one side of the stadium and split at the 50. But for the crowds this isn’t a bad tradeoff to use such a great venue.
The Pennsylvania finals are just spread out over three days, when they could easily be held in two with a better lockerroom situation. Because the lockers must be cleared by the first occupants for the night game, there must be quite a bit of separation between games. Switching the games to two tickets instead of allowing reentry with the earlier game’s ticket also made it a bit of a let down. But parking is both free and abundant. The stadium is rather plain and lackluster. It sits in what can best be called a wind tunnel. The press box is tiny. It’s really not much different than any other high school game you’ll attend. Got to meet Coach Franklin, who would love to see the state finals moved to Beaver Stadium in State College.
The Minnesota state association, the MSHSL, hosts many state playoffs in North Dakota due to lack of a good playoff venue in the northwestern part of the state. North Dakota has two stadiums just across the river that are domed. The most notable is Fargodome in Fargo, where the MSHSL were hosting 8 games over 2 days. Due to logistical reasons, I only covered the first two games on Thursday. Kicking off the first of four games each day, it’s a great setup. Some teams have to travel, but to play in a climate controlled dome helps. But the atmosphere was dampened. Maybe it was just the two games I saw. Though one of them was one of the best of the season.
Georgia is just price and being outdoors in Atlanta in December isn’t going to be great weather. Friday was a rain storm. Saturday was still just cold. $23 tickets at the gate and $20 parking day of the games. Even if you can stay for all four games, that’s a lot to charge fans who mostly are just showing up for one game and then leaving. But the worst is the WPAvE event. Not really because of anything in particular. But the matchups have been absymal for the past two years. It’s also in August and afternoon games can be a bit overwhelming. And despite the Wolvarena getting regularly touted as a great venue, having seen many games there, I don’t see the appeal of it. It’s huge. That’s about the only major aspect of it I can name.
Most memorable games:
20191005 HSF INDUSTRY WESTERN BEAVER 7, Munhall Steel Valley 6, Western Beaver Stadium, Industry, PA
20191011 HSF Portville (NY) 20, FREDONIA (NY) 6, Orange Bowl, Fredonia, NY
20191024 HSF ARVADA POMONA (CO) 34, Littleton Columbine (CO) 33, NAAC Stadium, Arvada, CO
20191031 HSF9 Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (MN) 14, Northome North Central (MN) 12, Fargodome, Fargo, ND*
20191205 HSF Farrell 10, Altoona Bishop Guilfoyle 7 (OT), Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA** (1A)
I changed up how I did it this year. Instead of best games, it’s most memorable. And it was tough to narrow it down to just five. I had to lose several great games, or memorable games, in the process. Blum-McLean, Rising Star-Three Way, DeForest-Reedsburg and others didn’t make the cut. It’s a shame.
In chronological order, the first game was a weird, slightly boring game. For most of it. Steel Valley had a 6-0 lead and it looked like it would go down as a 6-0 finish. Until Western Beaver got the ball late in the game, and scored with 7.8 seconds left. The extra point wins it for them.
The next game might not be one of the closest games. But it’s one that I just don’t think I’ll ever forget. It was senior night. A huge overflowing crowd. The stadium tucked into a clearing next to the highway just west of downtown. The atmosphere was something that was tinged with electricity. As the game wore on, it was clear Portville was better. But, it still was one just a few plays would have changed completely.
The Pomona-Columbine game was the nightcap of a Thursday night doubleheader. Pomona jumped out to a lead. Columbine was down by two touchdowns before scoring late. Getting a turnover, they scored again. But missed the PAT. They recover the onside kick. Drive down the field quickly. And trailing 34-33, kick a field goal. And it’s missed again.
In the second game in Fargo, the consolidated Warren-Alvardo-Oslo scored with 59 seconds left to take a 14-12 lead. And, what looked like the winning play, intercepting a pass. However, the returner fumbled the ball while striving for a TD, and was recovered by North Central. They move down the field, and with 5 seconds left, threw another interception into the near corner of the endzone.
And lastly, the Farrell-Bishop Guilfoyle game. Farrell held a long 7-0 lead, before having a punt blocked. That set up Bishop Guilfoyle for a TD. Sending the game to overtime. Farrell blocked a field goal, and then kick one of the most improbable field goals. A kick that hit that vaunted Hersheypark Stadium headwind and died. Just clearly the crossbar and landing just a few feet in front of me. Giving the Steelers another state title.
Least memorable games:
20191004 HSF PITTSBURGH PERRY 52, Pittsburgh Carrick 20, Cupples Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
20191012 HSF St. Marys Elk County Catholic 57, SHEFFIELD 14, Wolverine Mountain, Sheffield, PA
20191024 HSF ARVADA RALSTON VALLEY (CO) 42, Lakewood (CO) 0, NAAC Stadium, Arvada, CO
20191109 HSF Buffalo South Park (NY) 38, Buffalo McKinley (NY) 0, New Era Field, Orchard Park, NY*
20191115 HSF West Des Moines Dowling Catholic (IA) 42, Cedar Rapids Kennedy (IA) 6, UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls, IA*
By changing the category, it’s now a little different. I have some really ‘bad’ games that are still memorable. New places. Absurdly one-sided scores, etc. In years past, Southern Columbia-Avonworth would be on this list. But that was memorable. Even if it wasn’t a good game. A Pittsburgh City League game, another Sheffield home blowout, the first of two games that I missed most of the first half of a blowout. The completely one-sided game at New Era Field between two city schools who, despite even records, weren’t even matchups. And the last being the Dowling Catholic blowout of Kennedy. A game that lacked for any enthusiasm.
After seven straight years seeing games close to home, this year was different. I usually take off most, or all, of the football season. From August through the end of December. This year, things just didn’t work out. I travel extensively for work, so that puts me in some unique and frequent places. Colorado, Texas, and the upper midwest and this year just due to a shortage of money, I worked and decided to just give up some of local games I had planned. It’s something I did years ago, and honestly, I’ve really enjoyed it again this year. Seeing games all over the Midwest, Upper Plains, and Mountain States.
With covering games for PA Football News, attendance costs aren’t much. It’s more just the cost of getting there. And even then I have an ace up my sleeve. My wife’s work includes free gas. Though just locally. So, any short drive means I don’t pay for gas. And, for me, short being entirely relative. 200 miles one way is short, to me. My wife, however, didn’t attend any games this year. Just a handful of Browns games. With a 3.5 year old daughter, my wife just graduated college and spent her entire free time with her or classwork. As with last year, several of my longer trips were with a friend, which split costs in half and in some cases preferable to traveling alone.
I did add a new state to my list: Kansas. In the end, I saw three games in the Sunflower State. I had planned to see a little over 100 games this season once again. And until Week 14, I was still on pace for 100 games, exactly. Planning three games that weekend, I attended the Sharon-Bald Eagle game at Clarion on Friday night, and had decided on the WPIAL Finals doubleheader at Norwin. However, I got deathly sick, as did my wife and daughter, that evening. I still managed to drag myself, alone, to the Browns game on Sunday afternoon. They played the Dolphins. They won. But I really don’t remember much of that game at all.
Last year, I traveled 18,493 miles to attend 118 games. This year, I totaled 13,482 miles for 98 games. Just for basics, I only counted travel between games when out west. Any other game, was from home to game to home. Or more than one. As with last year, I didn’t keep track of gas mileage again for the entire year because I drove several vehicles, and we carpooled with my friend’s car for others. But, for much of the season, it was on my own for games. Total cost spent for gas and Ubers, Lyfts, and cabs, was $336.33.
For tickets, programs, souvenirs, and parking fees, the total spent was $346 for high school games. This year, unlike in years past, I didn’t count any traveling for Browns games. Almost every game was doing sideline photography and reporting for PA Football News. The only tickets purchased were for the Iowa, Georgia, and Texas games. I did buy a lot of souvenirs. I like having a program. And will usually buy one when they’re sold. I bought a pair of leather gloves at DeForest for $20, a mini-helmet at Shenango for $25, and several places bought shirts for my daughter. At Ellis, Triton, Georgia, and Iowa.
All tolled, I spent $2449.73 to attend 98 games this season. That equaled $24.99 per game. Trips this year were calculated differently. Since my friend and I split costs on some of the longer trips. Iowa, Georgia/Texas, New York, etc. Primarily just hotels and gas. In the future, expenses will change depending on if my wife and daughter can/will travel to games in future seasons. Though, speculatively, I believe next year it’ll mostly be on my own until my daughter is more school aged.
During the regular season, I stuck mostly to Pennsylvania or Pennsylvania teams when I was home. Three games in Ohio featured Pennsylvania squads. All three getting blown out in the process. I did see the Thursday Leetonia game to kickoff the season, and two Waterloo games, one home and one away on Thursdays. Strangely, I did not see a single Friday night game in Ohio this season. The first time in over a decade, I’m sure.
The last two weekends of the year were a combined trip. Originally, I was just planning my usual trip to Texas. But, with a week off between Pennsylvania and Texas, I started looking for something to do. My friend originally planned, due to work scheduling, to fly to Texas and I would just pick them up before the games and then drop them back off at the airport or drive back together. However, with more free time decided to take off the entire extra week and include Georgia. Despite finding out that Mercedes-Benz Stadium was no longer the host stadium, we kept our plans.
For the trip, we found rebooking the hotels closer to the travel dates got much cheaper prices. Dropping the one room from almost $80/night to under $60/night. And the Texas hotel where I’ve stayed for the state finals for several years dropped nearly $10/night.
On the year, in my travels, since I traveled with a friend many times, I only slept in my car once. That was Thanksgiving evening driving to Indianapolis. Hotel rooms that night are usually bit pricier, and with my late departure from home, would figure I would only spend a few hours in the room before heading over to the stadium. So, interstate rest area it was.
NOTES and THOUGHTS
2019 was fun. A lot of new things going on this year. The last time I traveled during the regular season was two years ago, when my wife and daughter traveled with me to Disney World and then traveled back to Ohio. Along the way, saw games in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Kentucky over two weekends.
This year, it was a year of travel. I spent a lot of time in the plains states. Especially Colorado. And took one really long trip from Colorado to Montana via North Dakota one weekend, and then from North Dakota through Wisconsin and Illinois to home the next. Those two weeks were some of the fondest memories of the season. Moorcroft, Bowman, Savage, DeForest, and Marion were all a blast.
Saw a lot of new teams this season. 102 to be exact, with 36 new stadiums. I saw 191 different teams in 49 different stadiums in 16 states. Saw teams from 19 different states. I really enjoyed the games I attended. Even when a few of them turned into one-sided affairs. Such as the Bowman-Kenmare/Bowbells/Burke Central game.
Most memorable player, one that left a lasting mark, was Ben Jackson of West Greene. The shear domination his running game had in the game against Cameron, and most of the rest of the season was incredible.
I’m now up to 1,163 different teams. 336 different stadiums, and 299 different cities. And currently, sit at 1,038 games. Of those, 938 were in the past ten years. And 810 in the past eight seasons. I saw 127 games in 2014. And my lowest total was 55 in 2010. Since reaching 100 twice in 2012 and 2013, my lowest number was 84 in 2016.
For my favorite new stadiums, I’d go–in chronological order–with:
Kennedy Field, Rogersville, PA
It’s the train tracks. There isn’t that much ‘greatness’ about this stadium. It’s a stadium. it’s tucked next to a major road, by a creek, and near a train bridge to the eastern edge of the stadium. The site of it dominates your view on approach. It just is fitting for the setting. That, and the endless mosquito bites.
Trombitas Field, Leetonia, OH
Again, it’s not so much the stadium, which is a rather simple, plain metal structure, but the surrounding grounds. The bell tower. The entry way. The location down the hill from the school. It’s a great small town venue to see a game.
Bill Race Field, Falconer, NY
Recently upgraded, Bill Race Field is a great small school venue. Fresh turf, new stands, great concessions, plenty of parking, and on the east end of town, situated with a good view of the lingering hills to the north.
Wildcat Stadium, Rising Star, TX
A little six-man stadium in northern Hill Country of Texas. The stadium is surrounded by a block wall complete with an arched entryway that is no longer in use. Located north of town and behind the high school, it’s a great, albeit old, stadium for a small school with a big, lively, and enthusiastic crowd.
Orange Bowl, Fredonia, NY
This place will never win awards for quality. With only two port-a-potties for the entire venue, the location stuck in a bowl by US20 west of town. The stands are old wood planks. Surrounded by trees, and impressive hillside to the west between the school and the field with a memorable, and slightly alarming, walk down the hill to the stadium. But the crowd was hyped, loud, boisterous, and what high school football is about. A game here is worth attending.
Wiley Field, Wiley, CO
I’ve seen this stadium many times. The huge marquee located on the main highway running by the edge of town, this little outpost northwest of Lamar is quite noticeable. The stadium grounds sit right along the road and it’s this quaint, simple stadium lined with trees to the north. A windmill is located between the endzone and the road. It’s been a place on my bucket list and finally got to see a game here.
And as for years passed, I’m not about to rank all 191 teams that I’ve seen. Instead, I’m going to let calpreps do it:
#4 North Shore (Houston, TX)
#6 Duncanville (TX)
#8 Corner Canyon (Draper, UT)
#10 Marietta (GA)
#12 Lowndes (Valdosta, GA)
#17 Westlake (Austin, TX)
#29 St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, PA)
#31 Shadow Creek (Pearland, TX)
#32 Guyer [John H.] (Denton, TX)
#37 Ryan [Billy] (Denton, TX)
#54 Aledo (TX)
#57 Carthage (TX)
#61 New Palestine (IN)
#63 Buford (GA)
#71 Pleasant Grove (Texarkana, TX)
#89 Southern Columbia Area (Catawissa, PA)
#90 Harrison [Carl] (Kennesaw, GA)
#96 Jefferson [Thomas] (Jefferson Hills, PA)
#108 La Vega (Waco, TX)
#111 Blessed Trinity (Roswell, GA)
#118 Carmel (IN)
#121 Marshall [Thurgood] (Missouri City, TX)
#128 Western Dubuque (Epworth, IA)
#134 Archbishop Hoban (Akron, OH)
#136 Bishop Chatard (Indianapolis, IN)
#154 Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, PA)
#166 Warner Robins (GA)
#176 Grandview (TX)
#189 Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, GA)
#195 West Lyon (Inwood, IA)
#203 Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines, IA)
#205 Orem (UT)
#217 Refugio (TX)
#241 Irwin County (Ocilla, GA)
#245 Calvert Hall (Baltimore, MD)
#251 Center Grove (Greenwood, IN)
#262 Columbine (Littleton, CO)
#268 Valley (West Des Moines, IA)
#269 Gunter (TX)
#272 Ralston Valley (Arvada, CO)
#290 Oconee County (Watkinsville, GA)
#301 Harrisburg (PA)
#305 Allatoona (Acworth, GA)
#314 Pottsboro (TX)
#323 DeForest (WI)
#324 Dublin (GA)
#371 Valparaiso (IN)
#404 Wyoming Area (Exeter, PA)
#422 Pomona (Arvada, CO)
#456 Archbishop Wood (Warminster, PA)
#484 Crisp County (Cordele, GA)
#521 Solon (IA)
#538 Dallas (PA)
#548 OABCIG (Ida Grove, IA)
#611 Post (TX)
#618 West Sioux (Hawarden, IA)
#631 Brooks County (Quitman, GA)
#667 Central Valley (Monaca, PA)
#672 Reitz Memorial (Evansville, IN)
#713 West Hancock (Britt, IA)
#716 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (Sergeant Bluff, IA)
#800 Wimberley (TX)
#863 Van Meter (IA)
#942 Heritage Hills (Lincoln City, IN)
#972 East Noble (Kendallville, IN)
#973 Lewis Central (Council Bluffs, IA)
#994 Mart (TX)
#996 Western Boone (Thorntown, IN)
#1014 Hamlin (TX)
#1018 Wesleyan (Norcross, GA)
#1044 Pewitt [Paul H.] (Omaha, TX)
#1069 Algona (IA)
#1079 Avonworth (Pittsburgh, PA)
#1088 Cheltenham (Wyncote, PA)
#1147 National Christian (Fort Washington, MD)
#1199 Kennedy [John F.] (Cedar Rapids, IA)
#1382 Bettendorf (IA)
#1384 Waukon (IA)
#1517 McKeesport (PA)
#1653 Reedsburg (WI)
#1754 Farrell (PA)
#1823 Marion County (Buena Vista, GA)
#1965 St. Ansgar (IA)
#1974 Grundy Center (IA)
#2057 Clymer/Sherman/Panama (Clymer, NY)
#2155 Southwestern (Jamestown, NY)
#2368 Eastbrook (Marion, IN)
#2394 Williamsburg (IA)
#2627 Regina (Iowa City, IA)
#2702 Indianapolis Lutheran (Indianapolis, IN)
#2824 Triad (Troy, IL)
#2970 Bald Eagle Area (Wingate, PA)
#2983 Woodland Hills (Pittsburgh, PA)
#3235 Lafayette Central Catholic (Lafayette, IN)
#3251 Maritime/Health Sciences (Buffalo, NY)
#3314 Lancaster (NY)
#3383 Lakewood (CO)
#3426 Woodbury Central (Moville, IA)
#3525 Bishop Guilfoyle (Altoona, PA)
#3589 North Hills (Pittsburgh, PA)
#3664 South Park (Buffalo, NY)
#3806 Sharon (PA)
#3979 Orchard Park (NY)
#3983 USO [University Prep/Sci-Tech/Obama Academy] (Pittsburgh, PA)
#3991 Hays (KS)
#4184 Marion (IL)
#4529 Western Reserve (Berlin Center, OH)
#4774 Westinghouse (Pittsburgh, PA)
#4918 Franklinville/Ellicottville/West Valley Central (Franklinville, NY)
#4940 Eagle’s Landing (McDonough, GA)
#5154 West Greene (Waynesburg, PA)
#5241 St. Paul (Norwalk, OH)
#5591 Coudersport (PA)
#5610 Fike [Ralph L.] (Wilson, NC)
#5960 McDonald (OH)
#6053 Shenango (New Castle, PA)
#6276 Western Beaver (Industry, PA)
#6291 Wilson (NY)
#6316 East (Youngstown, OH)
#6465 Laurel (New Castle, PA)
#6778 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (Coraopolis, PA)
#6837 Portville (NY)
#6924 McKinley (Buffalo, NY)
#6935 Southeast (Wichita, KS)
#7044 Bowman County (Bowman, ND)
#7351 Freeport (PA)
#7397 Albion (NY)
#7408 Greenville (PA)
#7462 Liberal (KS)
#7539 Yuma (CO)
#7678 Hampton (Allison Park, PA)
#7876 Triton (Erwin, NC)
#8057 Brookville (PA)
#8356 LaCrosse (KS)
#8741 Steel Valley (Munhall, PA)
#8805 Wilson [Woodrow] (Washington, DC)
#9069 Deer Lakes (Russellton, PA)
#9103 Redbank Valley (New Bethlehem, PA)
#9734 Mohawk (Bessemer, PA)
#9802 Red Jacket (Shortsville, NY)
#9853 Fredonia (NY)
#9905 North (Wichita, KS)
#10088 Waterloo (Atwater, OH)
#10157 Leetonia (OH)
#10265 Ellis (KS)
#10455 Perry (Pittsburgh, PA)
#10792 Silver Creek/Forestville (Silver Creek, NY)
#11076 Wiggins (CO)
#11212 Beaver (PA)
#11889 Monticello (UT)
#12045 Elk County Catholic (St. Marys, PA)
#12180 Kenmare/Bowbells/Burke Central (Kenmare, ND)
#12213 Cambridge Springs (PA)
#12255 Cameron (WV)
#12374 Ambridge (PA)
#12517 Falconer/Cassadaga Valley (Falconer, NY)
#12866 Imani Christian (Pittsburgh, PA)
#12950 McKinley (Sebring, OH)
#13074 Iroquois (Erie, PA)
#13222 Carrick (Pittsburgh, PA)
#13276 Moorcroft (WY)
#13446 Glenrock (WY)
#13498 Northgate (Pittsburgh, PA)
#13724 Sheffield (PA)
#13813 Punxsutawney (PA)
#13971 Saegertown (PA)
#14046 Monument Valley (UT)
#1 McLean (TX)
#10 Don Bosco (Gilbertville, IA)
#11 Blum (TX)
#13 Richland Springs (TX)
#48 Audubon (IA)
#59 Turkey Valley (Jackson Junction, IA)
#66 Motley County (Matador, TX)
#74 St. Mary’s (Remsen, IA)
#82 Wibaux (MT)
#166 Kit Carson (CO)
#193 Abilene Christian (Abilene, TX)
#349 Savage (MT)
#360 Lakeland Christian (Lewisville, TX)
#377 Win-E-Mac (Erskine, MN)
#511 Fertile-Beltrami (Fertile, MN)
#570 Flagler/Hi-Plains (Flagler, CO)
#579 Holly (CO)
#622 North Central (Northome, MN)
#877 Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (Warren, MN)
#1062 Cheraw (CO)
#1423 Rising Star (TX)
#1428 Three Way (Stephenville, TX)
#1634 Weldon Valley (Weldona, CO)
#1638 Wiley (CO)
For some perspective, here’s the worst teams in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania in comparison:
#14046 Monument Valley (UT)
#14161 Lincoln West (Cleveland, OH)
#14168 York County Tech (York, PA)
#14201 Hancock (MD)
#14237 Union (Dugger, IN)
#14241 Bryant [William C.] (Queens, NY)
These are the five worst teams as ranked by calpreps, in the country:
#14239 Standing Rock/Selfridge (Fort Yates, ND)
#14240 Seward (AK)
#14241 Bryant [William C.] (Queens, NY)
#14243 Greyhills Academy (Tuba City, AZ)
#14244 Wingate (Fort Wingate, NM)
After a surprise that a New York City team was slotted as ‘worst’ team in the country, it’s back to the American Southwest. Usually, one of the very rural, small, 11-man teams in New Mexico gets the dishonor. New Mexico gets lowly regarded in the national rankings, so usually the worst team gets marked at the bottom of the list.
TRAVEL & FOOD
My travel was a bit unique this season to years past. My local travels had a lot of new places. And my midseason trips had some cool and interesting stops. But, my longer trips were usually with a friend where speed and quick transit was prioritized over meandering and exploring.
For hotels, there wasn’t any unique, non-chain locations this season. But, I will advise against staying at OYO locations. There’s something fishy about them. Their places are consistently cheap, but with horrendous reviews and ratings. That seems to correlate. The hotel in Atlanta, a Motel 6, was apparently in the midst of a renovation, which I know may be the main factor in the price being so low. But, I don’t mind. I did mind the fact you could hear the atrium television echoing under the door to the room. That, and the woman having an out-of-body orgasm somewhere down the hall on a Saturday morning. Good for her. But, I didn’t need to hear it.
Laredo Taco Company, Various Locations, Texas
Guilty pleasure: Can't pass a Laredo Taco Company without stopping for a Barbacoa taco. Slimy goodness. #roadtrip pic.twitter.com/ybrXeLU2o5
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 16, 2015
This is cheating just a bit. This is one of my favorite, cheap, places in Texas. Located at Stripes gas stations (recently purchased by 7-Eleven), the Laredo Taco Company is known for having great tacos. It seems counter-intuitive to have a gas station having great tacos. But, they do. However, northern Texas doesn’t really have many locations. I believe just shy of Austin is the cutoff. However, west Texas has Stripes locations as far north as Lubbock. And, for this season at least, the one I stopped at was Brownwood, just down the road from Rising Star on Sunday morning. The Barbacoa tacos are amazing. Seriously.
Trading Post, Kit Carson, Colorado
Made it to Kit Carson a little early. Just in time for lunch at the only restaurant in town. The Trading Post. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/41jnEq7LKl
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 26, 2019
Now I'm an adventurous eater. But not that adventurous. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/1QhkqB7dm3
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 26, 2019
Famous for their deep-fried danglers, which I opted not to try, they did have amazing chicken wings. Huge. Moderately priced. And tasted great.
Trapper’s Kettle, Belfield, North Dakota
Nice, but expensive, restaurant in western North Dakota. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/r5XPuxVyBn
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 28, 2019
Driving from Montana to Fargo from one weekend to the next, I stopped in Belfield and spent two days here. Trapper’s Inn and adjoining Trapper’s Kettle restaurant is a log-built structure that has some really good food. Including a large canoe acting as their salad bar. The soup was great as well. Had a chopped steak with onions each day. This part of North Dakota isn’t really known for cheap prices. So, dinner and drink is over $20 for even the cheapest items.
Cardello Pizza, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania
And for lunch, a hoagie at the best hole in the wall pizza place near the airport. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/2MIMon3Tcc
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 5, 2019
Not really a place to dine-in. But their Ranch Steak Hoagie is my favorite thing at this location. Had a lot of time between the Western Beaver and Beaver games, so drove down for a late lunch/early dinner.
Texas Hot Lunch, Kane, Pennsylvania
And no drive through US 6 is complete without a stop in at Texas Hot Lunch in Kane, PA. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/joui3SVH3L
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 12, 2019
Whenever I’m on US6, I like to stop here. Like their New York brethern to the North, Kane and the general area has “Texas Hot Lunch” or “Texas Red Hots” as a thing. It’s basically chili dogs, but they do have a lot of different things. A burger and a couple of dogs are a cheap, good lunch between games at Sheffield and Coudersport on a Saturday afternoon.
County Line Diner, Wiley, Colorado
Stopped at the little gas station /diner next to the field here in Wiley. Couldn't wait to take a photo. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/XWUQqwkT6p
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 19, 2019
Little convenience store/diner next to the stadium. Great burgers. A real surprise. Just some barstool seating at the one end of the gas station, with a window. Sold tacos, burgers, etc. Didn’t try any of the tacos. The double cheeseburger I had was exceptional. And worth a repeat visit some day.
Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, Moorcroft, Wyoming
A little spot to eat at the travel center in town. Has a coffee shop (the entire place is called Coffee Cup) and a deli. The deli appears to be some sort of chain, but I had never heard of them. Make sandwiches on real bread. Not the rolls you’d see at Subway, Quiznos, etc. Instead, it’s actual bread. And it was good. Had one before the game and a breakfast sandwich in the morning before going to Bowman.
Meeder’s, Ripley, New York
My friend and I carpooled to the Section 6 Finals and wanted to find somewhere for lunch on Friday afternoon. This place was a surprise. Got a grilled chicken salad. It was good. Had fries on it. Pittsburgh style. Wasn’t the largest, but also not that expensive. The thing here was the blackberry pie. One of the best I’ve ever had. Not soupy like so many berry pies. Instead, the mashed up blackberries create a consistency closer to what you’d find in a pumpkin pie. But still with noticeable pieces of berry in it.
Louies Texas Red Hots, Orchard Park, New York
I’ll stop here every year during the Section 6 Finals. One is located just down the road from the stadium and is opened 24 hours. Like Texas Hot Lunch above, this place has chili dogs. For dinner, a few chili dogs are worthwhile. Also, stopped here for breakfast before Saturday’s games and got one of the largest mushroom omelets ever. This place goes all out to inundate you with food for your money. The omelet is well worth the cost.
Dave’s Steak House & Buffet, Corbin, Kentucky
Having stopped here last year, it was an easy decision to stop again on the way to Atlanta. This time, in the evening, the buffet had steak. And though it isn’t great, it’s well worth the cost of the buffet to have unlimited steak, fried chicken, chicken & dumplings, etc.
Heim Barbecue, Fort Worth, Texas
Pardon me for a few. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/j87ow8dZNL
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 17, 2019
First chance to ever stop here. Since we got into Texas a day earlier than originally planned. This opened up Tuesday to do some exploring about the metroplex. And a stop for lunch at the famed Heim Barbeque location. The original. Famous for their Bacon Burnt Ends, a variant of the traditional burnt ends, it was worth the stop. Even if the price is a bit staggering. Had 3/4 pounds, in two orders, of the Bacon Burnt Ends. They can best be described as Meat Candy. And any true barbecue fan needs to try them at lest once.
Bacon burnt ends are basically meat candy. #Heim #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/yoiLAbMEkM
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 17, 2019
Major/Regional Chains worth stopping at:
Whataburger, Culver’s, Freddie’s, HuHot, Bojangles, and Lee’s Famous Chicken
Whataburger is a regular stop in Texas after the UIL games. One of the few fast food places near the hotel after the game. And one that is open. Their double with cheese or triple with cheese are both well worth it. Also, tried the mushrooma and swiss this year and it’s definitely worth it as well. Their sweet tea is some of the best around as well. Culver’s and Freddie’s are both very similar. Steak’n’shake like burgers, but known more for their custards. Had Culver’s in Indiana and Freddie’s in Texas. HuHot is a regular stop of mine in the midwest. Had it in Fargo and Cedar Falls, Iowa. Bojangles is big in the southeast and well worth the stop. I recommend their actual chicken over their sandwiches or biscuits. And Lee’s Famous has much better chicken than KFC and it’s not close.
Like I started last year, there are some things that just aren’t able to be summed up somewhere further up this review. So, that goes here:
#1 The Travel
On the road to Wiggins. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/E0k5lXMu7t
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 18, 2019
This was the first season in a while where I regularly traveled during the regular season. It wasn’t by choice. Long story short, I needed the money. So, i worked. But, I made the best of it and enjoyed it far too much. Not that I thought I wouldn’t. But, it eclipsed my wildest expectations.
My trip from Arvada, Colorado to Moorcroft, Wyoming to Bowman, Montana to Savage, Montana was something I don’t think I could have ever even planned. Why would I? It just was there to do so I did it. Bowman is a small town I’ve been in before. And going to Savage, a rare Saturday night game, meant visiting the last county in Montana. After that, was a meandering tour of eastern Montana, including Fort Peck Dam.
Fort Peck Dam in Eastern Montana. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/YHv4FtJnms
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 28, 2019
Good Morning from Kansas. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/2klOGJhGUc
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 19, 2019
Kansas this morning. Electrifying. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/kF1N6084v5
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 21, 2019
First time seeing high school football games in Kansas. But not my first ever sporting event in the Sunflower State. I saw an MLS game between the Kansas City Wizards and Columbus Crew when they were playing temporarily at the Kansas City T-Bones minor league baseball stadium in Kansas City, Kansas. The stadium is now part of the same development where the baseball stadium and NASCAR track is located.
I am in the Land of Oz tonight. Two games in the Sunflower State this weekend. First up is a intracity matchup between Wichita Southeast and Wichita North. Played at Wichita South. #21 @PaFootballNews #BeyondTheKeystone pic.twitter.com/RomL6KKxNX
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 19, 2019
Wichita wasn’t really my prime location for a first game. But, the other option was dampened when I learned Kansas used a 45-point sudden death rule in the second half of 8-man games. So, for a Thursday, there wasn’t a lot of options. Two games around Wichita and I chose what would be a good game. I thought Liberal, a major city in southwest Kansas and major beef processing city, headquarters of National Beef, would have a great football atmosphere and support. The stadium was impressive. But, the crowd was abysmal. I learned afterward that the major cities of western Kansas, where the major slaughterhouses are located, are all pretty dismal when it comes to supporting their high school football teams. Liberal, Dodge city, Garden City, etc. Oh well. Seeing Ellis, though, was well worth it. Even with their old, quirky stadium.
#3 The Comeback
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." pic.twitter.com/WEUpnIkO9g
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 18, 2019
(photo taken in St. Franis, Kansas)
I didn’t attend this game. But, as I’ve relayed before, I still felt a bit of kinship with this small little town in northwest Kansas. I’ve spent several days in this part of the state before. And in St. Francis. My first game in Kansas was going to be the St. Francis game against Dighton in Dighton. But the 45-rule killed my interest. So, the next time, I planned to, but again, the 45-rule, and I opted for Ellis, instead. Another little dot in Kansas I’ve had on my ever-growing bucket list. So, still having not attended a game there, their tear through the season saw the St. Francis Indians going for their first ever state title. Played in Newton, Kansas. They were playing Canton-Galva. And I was following along to the game on my phone while in Indianapolis.
St. Francis had 45’d every team on their schedule but one. Winning 8 games via shutout. And one game only gave up a safety. Only gave up 62 points in 12 games. They were up 36-0 in the second quarter of the state championship game. Only nine points away from a state championship at halftime. And then, it happened. The updates kept coming in. Canton-Galva scored. Again. And again. And again. That 36-0 lead became 36-34. And it kept going. Before, finally, Canton-Galva had run off 66 straight points to win, 66-36 after trailing 36-0. Just unbelievable. A team I’d never seen, in a game I wasn’t watching. And it was, by far, the most improbable thing I had ever witnessed. Following that game, cheering for the Indians, and seeing 36-0 and a near certain state championship happening for the little community in the furthest northwest corner of Kansas. And then, that. Just unreal.
#4 Farrell’s Field Goal
They will rememner this Brian Hilton Jr. “Moon Shot” at @farrellfootball for some time. 10-7 OT Winner of Bishop Guilfoyle for 2nd straight PIAA Class 1A title. pic.twitter.com/AWRBUOHIYU
— Eric Epler (@threejacker) December 5, 2019
For a 1A school in PA, kicking isn’t really a thing. So, to see the state final go to overtime, and facing a headwind, seeing the Farrell Steelers line up for a field goal seemed like a mistake. They had just stopped Bishop Guilfoyle. And the kick went straight up. A short chip shot field goal. I was right behind the crossbar. The kick never looked like it had a chance. It traveled just forward enough, that it dropped between me and the crossbar. Winner. State champions. By inches.
#5 A Decade of Football
At the end of every season, I get a little sentimental for all the things I’ve seen and experienced. The first year I attended a lot of games, 55 in 2010, I never foresaw what would happen. I never thought I’d top 55. Or double it some times. I saw 938 games in 10 years. Games in 37 states. Still need Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
State championships in South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Louisiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. And provincial championships in Ontario.
I’ve seen games before dozens of fans and games with over 50,000 fans. 6-man, 8-man, 9-man, 11-man, and 12-man. It doesn’t matter. It’s all football to me.
2020 and Beyond
So, I don’t know what the next decade will hold. But, I know what I’d like to do. I want to see: the Jayton Kickoff Class in Texas; the Rocky Mountain Rumble in Idaho; the kickoff games at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu if/when they have them again; the Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont state championship games; See a game in Arkansas, finally; Early August games in Alaska. With Barrow on my all-time bucket list; I also want to get out to Laramie, Wyoming for the Wyoming state championships at some point.
Will I or won’t I? Who knows. I wasn’t expecting to do all this a decade ago. So, don’t know what I’ll do this next decade. I also want to hold off on some of the more extensive travel, such as Alaska or Hawaii, for when my daughter is old enough to fully enjoy such trips. Which is probably another 5 or 6 years away. I figure.
PHOTOS OF THE YEAR
102 New Teams
36 New Stadiums
1,164 Different Teams
336 Different Stadiums
For all my photos from every game this seasons and previous seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/