2021 Year In Review
After an unimaginable 2020 season, this year was a bit more relaxed. Though rushed. With the previous season ending in June, there was little downtime before the 2021 season started. This affected my usual summer plans, as well as made the financial planning a bit more precarious. I wasn’t sure, in the summer, just how much I would or could do. But, I was intent on doing as much as possible. And though a lot was ‘old’, there was a lot of ‘new’ thrown in. Including my month long trip around the middle of the country.
Some things were much like I planned they’d be. Not having to call around game-to-game was a nice touch after the fun that was 2020’s fall and eventual spring schedules. But, there were still things that would happen week-to-week. They season started with Georgia. I had been planning to see the Corky Kell Classic in Georgia for many years. But have always moved on from it. There were games in Kentucky that would be much closer. And this year, with Ohio even starting a week earlier, meant that Georgia was a trip because I wanted to do it, rather than because it was all that was available. I also had a new traveling partner for some games.
After several years of missing games, I took my daughter with me to Georgia. Which was no small feat. I had just planned to be there as fans in the stands, but figured it couldn’t hurt to contact the Corky Kell Classic organizers for credentials to cover the games for PA Football News. And asked if, at all possible, my daughter could get in as well. My primary motive was just to make sure my camera was allowed in, especially to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. However, I was quite surprised at how quickly I received an email that myself and my daughter would be on the press list for all the games. Cherokee and Mays would be the first of 103 games I’d see this fall.
In games I’ve attended, there were 5,236 points scored, for an average of 50.83 points per game (a 0.46/game increase from last year). The cumulative score was 3794-1442, for an average score of 36.83-14.00. Compared to 36.75-13.62 last year. The most points I saw were Strawn’s 73 in the Texas 1AD2 Championship Game in Arlington, Texas. For 11-man, the most was 62, scored by Morgantown (WV) and Southern Columbia (PA), both in their state championship game victories.
States I watched games in:
26 – Pennsylvania
14 – Iowa
14 – Minnesota
14 – Texas
9 – Georgia
5 – Indiana
4 – New York
4 – Kansas
3 – West Virginia
2 – New Mexico
1 – Nebraska
1 – South Dakota
1 – North Dakota
1 – Arizona
1 – Oklahoma
Championship Games by State:
12 – Texas
6 – Pennsylvania
2 – West Virginia
1 – Kansas
States of Teams I’ve Seen:
45 – Pennsylvania
28 – Iowa
28 – Minnesota
28 – Texas
17 – Georgia
10 – Indiana
8 – Kansas
6 – West Virginia
5 – Ohio
4 – New Mexico
2 – Nebraska
2 – South Dakota
2 – North Dakota
2 – Arizona
2 – Oklahoma
1 – Alabama
1 – Florida
Teams I’ve seen multiple times:
3x – Monaca Central Valley (PA)
2x – Clymer/Sherman/Panama (NY), Aliquippa (PA), Harrison City Penn-Trafford (PA), Hermitage Kennedy Catholic (PA) New Bethlehem Redbank Valley (PA), Pittsburgh Allderdice (PA), Pittsburgh USO (PA)
It was really scheduling that got me to my first few teams a second time. Kennedy Catholic had played at Iroquois on a Thursday night. And there wasn’t much else for a Thursday. My one other option was cancelled due to Covid. CSP a second time was just a given. Though, I had anticipated at least a third game of theirs. But, between my back pain and logistical issues, was unable to do much of anything in Week 11. The two Pittsburgh schools were thanks to a Monday Night Doubleheader. While, Redbank Valley, Aliquippa and Penn-Trafford were thanks to state title games.
Central Valley, however, was just happenstance. I saw them three straight weekends. First up, was the WPIAL Finals. Fair enough. The state semifinals, there wasn’t much for options, so I went with Central Valley hosting Martinsburg Central. And with the win at home in the state semifinals, saw them again for the state finals. Out of the 103 games, I saw 197 different teams this season. Of those, exactly 100 were new teams for me.
Most points (one team):
73 – Strawn (TX) v. Matador Motley County (12/15, 73-28 F/3rd 3:09) (6-man) [Championship]
72 – Westbrook (TX) v. May (12/15, 72-66) (6-man) [Championship]
66 – Anita CAM (IA) v. Audubon (11/10, 66-29) (8-man)
66 – May (TX) v. Westbrook (12/15, 66-72 L) (6-man) [Championship]
62 – Morgantown (WV) v. Huntington (12/4, 62-21) [Championship]
62 – Catawissa Southern Columbia (PA) v. McKeesport Serra Catholic (12/10, 62-25) [Championship]
Fewest points (one team):
0 – Columbus Bishop Sycamore v. Bradenton IMG (8/29, 58-0)*
0 – 10x by other teams
Most points (combined):
138 – Westbrook (72) v. May (66) (12/15, Arlington, TX] (6-man) [Championship]
101 – Strawn (73) v. Matador Motley County (28) (12/15, Arlington, TX] (6-man) [Championship]
95 – Anita CAM (66) v. Audubon (29) (11/10, Cedar Falls, IA) (8-man)
87 – Catawissa Southern Columbia (62) v. McKeesport Serra Catholic (25) (12/10, Hershey, PA) [Championship]
84 – Franklin (49) v. Gunter (35) (12/16, Arlington, TX) [Championship]
Fewest points (combined):
7 – Monaca Central Valley (7) v. Wyomissing (0) (12/11, Hershey, PA) [Championship]
14 – Russell Eisenhower (14) v. Cambridge Springs (0) (9/24, Russell, PA)
15 – Barrett West Central/Ashby (8) v. Mapleton Maple River (7) (11/19, Minneapolis, MN)
21 – Troy (21) v. Wellsboro (0) (9/25, Troy, PA)
22 – Randolph (22) v. Clymer/Sherman/Panama (0) (9/25, Panama, NY)
08/21 – Marietta Walton (34) v. Valdosta Lowndes (28), Atlanta, GA
09/10 – Yorktown (28) v. Muncie Delta (27), Muncie, IN
11/12 – Hawarden West Sioux (24) v. Dike-New Hartford (21), Cedar Falls, IA (2OT)
12/10 – Harrison City Penn-Trafford (17) v. Philadelphia Imhotep Charter (14), Hershey, PA [Championship]
12/17 – Katy Paetow (27) v. College Station (24), Arlington, TX [Championship]
Most Memorable Games:
This is, once again, not the ‘best games’. Though many of the best games are memorable. This is most memorable to me. One game in a 14-game weekend would have to be pretty memorable to stand out over the course of 103 games in a season. But, say, Dulce winning 50-0 over Pine Hill in Navajo Nation will be something I’ll remember for a long time. Even if the game was decided shortly after halftime.
I initially paired this list down to 27. Which was still far, far too many. But did manage to slice away at the unruly list to 12 most memorable games. Here they are in chronological order by thirds:
20210820 HSF Johns Creek (GA) 26, GAINESVILLE (GA) 10 (F/4th 9:27), City Park, Gainesville, GA
20210829 HSF Bradenton IMG (FL) 58, Columbus Bishop Sycamore 0, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, OH
20210909 HSF ARCANUM 30, Ansonia 14, Arcanum Booster Stadium, Arcanum, OH
20210910 HSF Yorktown (IN) 28, MUNCIE DELTA (IN) 27 (OT), Delta Football Stadium, Muncie, IN
Gainesville (GA) v. Johns Creek (GA)
First on the list is the Corky Kell Classic. It’s fitting that the only ‘single game’ I attended of the Corky Kell is my most memorable. Firstly, City Park in Ganesville, Georgia is a phenomenal stadium. Built at the park into a natural bowl. It alone speaks volumes. My daughter was with my for all nine of the Corky Kell games. Including the sideline. What made this memorable was just this was the one game my daughter really got to ‘play’ while we were there. Because of the cramped confines of the sideline, we sat along the block wall to the northwest end of the field. She was able to run around the wooded area behind me. Also, as we pulled in, there was a playground off to our right before you reach the field. So, at halftime, we walked down there and got to spend quite a bit of time thanks to a long halftime of her playing on the slides and climbing apparatus. Then, the weather that had evaded us to the north all afternoon threatened lightning in the area. So, with 9:27 left in the game, we left during the delay. Which was good, as the game was called by the time we returned to our hotel. And for all that, I managed to get one of my best photos of the year. On Johns Creek’s block of the punt.
Bishop Sycamore v. Bradenton IMG (FL)
The next game is probably the most infamous. And the one most non-high school football fans would likely to know about. That being the Bishop Sycamore game at Canton. Now, I knew going in that this was going to be exactly what people later learned it to be. It’s just nobody in any position of power either knew or cared. I wanted to cover it for PFN, if only to get in for free. Since my camera wouldn’t be able to get through security. And I decided to just not bring anything in with me. Just my cell phone. If anything, the inability to contact anyone about this game was just a microcosm in what went on with this game as a whole. It was so incredibly one-sided, you had to question if Bishop Sycamore’s players had ever stepped on the field together. At least God had enough, and a monsoon ensued. But it wasn’t enough to wash Bishop Sycamore off the turf. The second half was run with a running clock. And thankfully, it was over. But not the memes. Definitely not the memes. The memes will live long after this game mercifully ended.
Arcanum (OH) v. Ansonia (OH)
Next up was two games on back-to-back days. My first trip ever to Arcanum was memorable. As I said in a tweet while writing this up, Arcanum is quintessential high school football in Ohio. Small ball field, on the edge of town. Huge throng of fans right up against the field. It’s just a great place to see a game. I was told going in that I was going to have a good time here. And though the game got a little one-sided toward the end, it was a great night and one I’ll remember. Hopefully another Thursday game happens in the future and I can make another trip out west for it.
Delta (IN) v. Yorktown (IN)
And then, the next day on the outer fringes of what can be called Muncie, is Delta High School. I was here a few years ago, pre-Covid, and was absolutely amazed at this place. The crowd, the atmosphere, the stadium, the food, etc. All remarkable. So, I wasn’t sure how it could ever match, let along exceed, that first trip here. And it did. Easily. The food provided by the boosters is top notch. The crowd is loud, proud, and packs the stands. The stadium is great. And this game, their rivalry with Yorktown, ended in stunning fashion. Overtime, followed by trading touchowns. And a missed extra point seals it for the visitors. After the game, it was back to talk to the Boosters, and then head out for four games at Ball State on that Saturday.
20211016 HSF Elgin Grant County/Flasher (ND) 32, ASHLEY SOUTH BORDER (ND) 14, Ashley Field, Ashley, ND*
20211022 HSF Snowflake (AZ) 52, EAGAR ROUND VALLEY (AZ) 8, Round Valley Dome, Eagar, AZ
20211023 HSF Dulce (NM) 50, PINE HILL (NM) 0 (F/3rd 10:08), Warriors Field, Pine Hill, NM
20211029 HSF HOOKER (OK) 34, Mooreland (OK) 8, Bulldog Stadium, Hooker, OK
South Border (ND) v. Grant County/Flasher (ND)
So much of my trip out west could have made the list. Each and every stop along the way was memorable. I had left Pender on here for the longest time. But, finally had to scratch it as I decided which were most memorable. and it was tough leaving a 50-0 halftime blowout here, but I’ll get to it.
First on this second set of games, was the finale of that Upper Plains trip including Pender. I had wanted to see a game in Ashley for years. Back in 2017, my wife and I had passed through town while we were meandering from the DakotaDome to US Bank Stadium. We stopped and ate at the little restaurant in town. And I had seen the football field on the west end of town. Right along Route 11 near the intersection with Route 3 toward South Dakota. So, it was kind of surprising how easily this weekend had all come together. I knew that on Thursday I was going to be in Pender. And that’s when I saw that South Border, was hosting a playoff game. On Saturday afternoon. The only issue was a Friday game. So, I settled on Ipswitch. Not too far away from Ashley. As South Border is a co-op between Ashley and Wishek, it was kismet that the game was played at Ashley and not Wishek. Though I might have gone anyways. But, seeing this field on a beautiful, unseasonably warm afternoon was just perfect. It was a close contest, but the entire second half was scoreless. A long drive by South Border ended with a pick in the endzone. And that was the last scoring threat of the day for the homestanding Mustangs. It was disappointing that their season had come to an end. But, it’s a game I will always remember.
Round Valley (AZ) v. Snowflake (AZ)
Like Arcanum & Delta, the next two were on back-to-back days. Leaving El Paso, was a long drive northwest through southwestern New Mexico, Silver City among the towns I saw for the first time. And into the White Mountains in eastern Arizona. At over 7,000 feet stood the towns of Eagar and Springerville. And their very unique high school football stadium. It’s a dome. And this is unlike Frisco, Vermillion, Cedar Falls, Idaho Falls or Moscow. This stadium is theirs. And only theirs. It wasn’t built for any other reason than to have a domed stadium. So, seeing the dome, alone, was high on the list of memorable moments. And then there was the fact this was my first and so far only game in Arizona. I’ve seen an ArenaBowl in Phoenix and baseball games in Tucson. But never a high school football game. And though it was one-sided. It was incredibly memorable. And I got a great shot of a 52 yard field goal. And, to add to it, Snowflake went on to win the state championship.
Pine Hill (NM) v. Dulce (NM)
As I said, I found it difficult to justify keeping this one on the list when so many other games had better ‘games’, but there was something about this place I just enjoyed. It was small. It was simple. It was bad football. But I will never forget this afternoon in western New Mexico. The drive there from Springerville through the high sagebrush and then south into Pine Hill. I had been in this area once long ago. Back on August 15, 2010, I passed through the areas of western New Mexico to get Catron County. There isn’t much else for me in this area. Though I have been meaning to see the Very Large Array (VLA) located along US60. I just haven’t yet. But, I arrived early for the game. and the field and stadium weren’t anything spectacular. Simple. Though no press box. Just a canopy tent setup at the top of the stands. The field had a great vista to the east. And then it started. The game was one-sided. And nearly over at halftime. But it wasn’t. The homestanding Warriors held it to 42-0 to avoid the early finish. At halftime was both Senior Day and Homecoming. The royal court was announced. The senior players were presented souvenirs of their time on the team. Framed momentos and photos. It was a scene you could see at almost any field in any town in any state. The seniors had a long list of goals for after graduation, lists of favorites, such as Pizza, or Hamburgers, or Rap or Country songs. It was so common, yet so unique. It just made me like this place more. Even when Dulce scored that two-point conversion to go up 50-0 and end the game early in the third. The players weren’t upset or disappointed. They knew the uphill battle to just put points on the board. And just like that, another season had come to a close.
Hooker v. Mooreland
I had been wanting to see a game in the Oklahoma panhandle for a while. A couple years ago, I saw a game in Liberal, Kansas. Which is a scant few miles north of the Oklahoma border. in hindsight, I probably would’ve preferred to have gone elsewhere. But, this year, even with the long detour trip to Petrolia on Thursday night, I was in Hooker, Oklahoma for their game against Mooreland.
My back was killing me. But, I persisted. Walked the sideline most of the game. Got some good shots. And just took in the evening. Got some gatorade and some great burgers. I wish I could’ve done better photography. But by the end of the game, I was just leaned up against the fencing along the north endzone, just taking the game in. It was a bit one-sided. But it was a memory I won’t easily forget. So, it makes the list.
20211112 HSF Hawarden West Sioux (IA) 24, Dike-New Hartford (IA) 21 (2OT), UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls, IA*
20211119 HSF Barrett West Central/Ashby (MN) 8, Mapleton Maple River (MN) 7, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN*
20211211 HSF Monaca Central Valley 7, Wyomissing 0, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA** (3A)
20211218 HSF Dallas South Oak Cliff (TX) 23, Liberty Hill (TX) 14, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX** (5AD2)
Hawarden West Sioux v. Dike-New Hartford (2OT)
The first game of this last group was one of the best games at Iowa’s state semifinals. This was the third time I’ve seen West Sioux play. In 2018, 2019 and now 2021. They trailed Dike-New Hartford, 14-0 at the half. It looked like they were going to come up short. But, the second half, the Falcons got two touchdowns. One in the third and one late in the fourth to tie it at 14-14. In overtime, West Sioux scored first, but Dike-New Hartford tied it. In double overtime, DNH went first, and had 3 straight pass plays incomplete. The fourth down field goal attempt was no good. Hitting the left upright. With West Sioiux having the ball, they moved it 7 yards in three plays and settled for a 21 yard field goal. The kick was good. And that gave West Sioux a wild comeback win to advance to the state championship, 24-21.
Barrett West Central/Ashby v. Mapleton Maple River
This was easily the craziest game of the weekend in Minnesota. West Central/Ashby scored first, halfway through the second frame. But the two-point run was no good. Maple River answered with 13 seconds left in the half, to take a 7-6 lead. But, late in the third quarter, West Central/Ashby scored a safety to go up 8-7. That was the final score after a scoreless fourth quarter. First game I know of that I’ve seen where the winning score was a safety. And for that, it’s definitely memorable.
Monaca Central Valley v. Wyomissing
7-0. The lowest scoring game of the season was also a state championship game with some great defensive play. Wyomissing staved off a Central Valley score with one of the best one-handed interception by Tommy Grabowski at the goal line. But CV did score later on a run down the left side to go up 7-0. The pick and the score are definitely memorable moments. I haven’t seen too many 7-0 games. My previous most notable one would have been Boonville (MO) hosting Moberly (MO).
Dallas South Oak Cliff v. Liberty Hill
The final score of this game wasn’t that noteworthy. SOC won, 23-14. But the Dallas ISD school won the district’s first title since 1958. It was a raucous atmosphere at AT&T Stadium as the game drew to a close. Liberty Hill’s heavy run offense faltered and was unable to come back from the two score deficit late.
After last years’ improbable and extended season, this year was a bit back to normal. Though, some expenses were more than anticipated. This year started with a trip to Georgia for the Corky Kell Classic. It was also my first trip with my daughter since she was one. This was fun, but it also added more time and expense. One, with covid affecting hotels I had to splurge on a better hotel that had an indoor pool that was actually open. This meant staying at the Holiday Inn Express. And it was well worth it. The indoor pool was great, and my daughter loved it. We also took a bit more time getting to Georgia, as planned.
I took several long trips, including an extended month-long trip during the middle of the season. I did take several smaller trips than I usually would. One two-week trip was to Iowa and Minnesota. Then there was the four weekends of Kansas one weekend, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota the next.
Then to the southwest in El Paso, where I then added Arizona and New Mexico. And back to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. My trip to New Jersey was cancelled on account of shenanigans by my hotel I had booked. Over triple the original cost was not something I had planned for. So, I decided to bail on the trip and stick to a few local games instead.
Lastly, I closed the season with the Pennsylvania finals and Texas finals. Primarily, the biggest expense was countless local games. And my biggest expense was food. At $2619.85 for the season. For the games themselves, I cover most of them for PA Football News and get in free. it’s not a huge savings at the high school level, but it does add up. Over the course of the season, the only games I paid for tickets were at Steubenville, at Iowa, at Minnesota, and at Arlington, Texas. Steubenville was simply that I was taking my daughter and just wanted to sit in the stands. Without sideline space, there wasn’t a chance I’d even consider her being on the field. Even if she were allowed. Iowa and Minnesota were, in retrospect, a good thing as my back was not feeling the idea of standing on a sideline for 14 games each weekend. Though next year it looks like I’ve got an in for Minnesota. And am looking forward to it.
At games, I spent very little on tickets. A total of $555.32 was for tickets, souvenirs, and parking. $91.16 for Texas, $52.50 at Iowa, and $48 at Minnesota. And $6 at Steubenville. Parking was free for Texas and Iowa. But over $20 a day, split two ways, for Minnesota. And $15 for Heinz Field. The rest was a few programs here or there, and a few souvenirs. Shirts for my daughter at Minnesota and Texas.
Hotels were mostly at the beginning and ending of the year. Though there were a few scattered here or there in the regular season. The total cost was $1566.19, but almost half that was Week 0 going to Georgia. The Holiday Inn Express and other hotels totaled $714.85. In the regular season, $176.84 was for hotels in Indiana, near Warren (PA) and I had a hotel I used outside of work related expenses in Arizona. But, only paid $6.44 thanks to a discount.
The Iowa-Minnesota trip was for two weeks, and was split two-ways, totalling $504.77 for myself. That was a tad cheaper than planned since we drove from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Ohio in one straight shot. Pennsylvania was free for the finals thanks to PA Football News. However, Texas was $169.73 for the round trip. Including four days in Arlington. A free hotel on the way down and driving from Texarkana to home in one straight shot saved another.
Gas was a minor expense for most of the season. A free gas card I have was used for most of my local driving. Though, for longer trips, I would pay. Though some of those were split with my friend. So, that lowered the expense. For the year, the total cost was $1289.32. Nearly a third of that was a rental car I had to get in El Paso outside of work related expenses. And gas there. I had the rare uber or cab fare that added into the cost.
Unfortunately, I lost my car this fall. Even last season, and into the spring, it had some severe issues. But it was free, used, and old. And also had extensive underbody rust despite the exterior looking quite nice. At the start of the season, I had put an order in for a new Ford Maverick. Enticed by the fuel economy, I felt it was a good split the difference between my old Buick Regal and my 1987 F-150. The latter hardly drives at all. And mostly sits idle.
But, my 2003 Buick Regal had managed to survive through a slipping transmission, loss of air conditioning, heat, odometer, two of four power windows, interior lights, driver side power seat, and finally it’s death: a cracked head gasket. Miraculously, the thing ran for two years after the crack. The crack just slowly growing. At the time, had I realized the impending price increase of used cars, I may have spent the time and money to replace the headgasket. But, with the transmission issues among all the vehicle’s other problems, I figured palative care was the best approach. And it lasted. The coolant loss was an increasingly costly expense. Though, by the end, I was running straight water in it. As it could go through a gallon every hundred miles. And not all was an external leak. I know at some point one of the cylinders was sending it out the exhaust. But, for an 18 year old car, it lived out another year-plus.
It finally died for good on my way back from Buffalo. I had stopped for an early dinner at Peg’s Diner in Hamburg. I had checked the coolant and toppped it off when the car had cooled. And was good to go. But it managed to last just ten miles before shutting off. It had locked up. Though it had coolant. However, once it cooled a bit and topped off, it ran again. The big issue was AAA said it could be hours before a tow truck would be on site, and that there was an issue thanks to Covid with riding with the vehicle that far. So, the best solution was to get the car as close to home as possible.
With it starting, I got it to a gas station and filled up every water jug I had, and sprayed down the engine to cool it. And it ran. Until PA. And I had to stop and do it again. Finding a Country Fair with a garden hose. Sprayed down the engine, topped everything off, and went. I had already given up my night game. And was just trying to get the vehicle home at this point. Figuring I’d drive or tow it to a junk yard the next day. It got ten miles from its destination, before it finally seized. Not that it wouldn’t crank. But, it would not fire. I figured the valves had seized.
I wasn’t too upset, though my new truck hadn’t been delivered yet. I bought a used van for $500 cash, and had used it since I returned home. It safely made the Iowa-Minnesota trip. And has meandered through the rest of the fall. I just got confirmation that my truck is going to be delivered soon and I should have it by late January. At that point I’ll junk the Buick and figure out what to do with the van. Either sell it, trade it in, or just keep it as a back-up beater car. I’m usually not a fan of parting with a car until it’s parked at a junk yard. I get my money’s worth out of them.
Other regular season weekends included a trip east to Troy, Pennsylvania on Saturday night. The Friday game was at Eisenhower, and then a quick jaunt north to Panama, New York for the CSP-Randolph game. Arcanum/Delta/Ball State was another.
But the big trip was a month. I started in Eastern Kansas at Junction City. They had a Thursday home game so it worked out perfectly to be there. They hosted Topeka. With Kansas unlikely to have Saturday games, and none immediatly around Kansas in Nebraska or western Missouri, made the Friday night game a single game. And that meant making calls. I finally found Santa Fe Trail to cover their game.
The next week, I had moved north, and was in suburban Sioux City, on the Nebraska side. So, it was a short drive to Pender, Nebraska for their game on a rare Thursday night. Friday night was a long drive north to Ipswich, South Dakota. And Saturday was in Ashley, North Dakota. Those were both quasi-work related. Next week, I was back in West Texas, but this was all personal. Thursday in El Paso, then to Arizona for my first game in the Grand Canyon State. And two games in New Mexico. Still in West Texas, the Thursday game was going to be in Amarillo or Follett, but instead I made the very long drive from Plains to Petrolia for their game against defending champion Windthorst. From there it was an added bit to get to Hooker, Oklahoma for Friday. And then the Wild West Bowl in Dodge City, Kansas.
I usually don’t work during football season. But, I’ve made the exception the past three years. And have really enjoyed it. Plus, can’t turn down the money. But it got me through the rest of the season.
Primarily, though, my back was really hurting, so I didn’t have any games in Week 11. But then I struggled through the two week trip to Iowa and Minnesota with a friend. 28 games in two weeks was hard to pass up. And I’m planning to do it again in 2022. There was nothing new after that. A return trip to Heinz Field for three games the next Saturday. West Virginia in Week 15. The PA State Finals in Week 16. And a long trip, again, to Texas to close out the season.
For the season, I traveled 14,545 miles for games. Not always was I the driver. With my friend, a few of the longer trips we would split driving. Total gas cost for me was $1289.32. I didn’t keep track of mileage, as my fall consisted of six different cars. There were vast differences in mileage. My Buick was my primary car to start the year, and averaged about 24mpg, while the van averaged 19-20mpg to close out the year.
Over the 103 games I attended, I only purchased tickets for Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and Steubenville. The rest of the games were on the sideline for PA Football News or Texas Redzone Report.
Overall, for the 2021 season, I attended games on 17 different weekends. My season started on August 18th and ended on December 18th. Only missing on Weekend: Week 11. I did miss a few games here or there. Friday night before the WPIAL Finals at Heinz Field, I was unable to make it to a game. I missed the Mercyhurst Prep game when my car died.
For total cost, I spent $6370.48 attending the 103 games. Which was $217 more than I spent last season for 132 games over many more weekends. The biggest added expense was Georgia with my daughter. The pricier hotel and additional travel added to the time. Of the amount spent, $555.32 was spent on Tickets & Misscelaneous; $1289.32 for Gas or Transportation; $2619.85 for food, $1566.19 for hotels; and $339.80 for trip related, but not football related, Misscelaneous expenses.
Now, Tickets and Miscellaneous are game related expenses. Miscellaneous, on its own, is expenses related to any trips I’ve taken. The one expense I didn’t include was the van. Car maintenance, purchasing, insurance, etc just isn’t included in these. These are for things such as clothes, rain jackets, supplies for the road like car chargers, USB cords, etc. A lot of the hotel cost is unseen, however, as PAFN either paid for it directly or was directly reimbursed. I’m only counting hotels where I paid for myself, or as a share of the cost, without a specific reimbursement for it.
Food tends to average about $40 a day when I’m out. A little less when I’m returning home each day. Some expensive meals were: Sushi Bomb in Pennsylvania; Brasilia Steakhouse in Asheville, North Carolina; Brazieros in Knoxville, Tennessee; Skol Grill & Tavern in Albert Lea, Minnesota; and Rio in Woodbury, Minnesota. All except Sushi Bomb and Skol Grill were Brazilian Steakhouses. And those aren’t exaclty cheap.
Overall, I drove an average of 141.2 miles for each game of the 2021 football season. I spent an average of $61.85 per game to attend all 103 games.
For travel, it was all hotels. Even the longer trips I never just pulled over to grab a nap in my car. From Texarkana to home in one day. The nicest hotel was the Holiday Inn Express in Cumming, Georgia. The worst? Well, that belongs to the Holley Hotel in Bradford. I stayed there twice. And it was just as unsettling the second time. But it was dirt cheap.
The Rest Stop 6 Inn in Clarendon, PA along US6 was a surprising find. Very much enjoyed it, even if the rooms are a bit small.
NOTES and THOUGHTS
This year, the entire year, was a long one. With football continuing from January 1st through mid-June, my offseason never really existed. This meant a few differences in my fall plans. I didn’t anticipate traveling nearly as much, though that was a bit of a lie. My trips out west weren’t planned preseason, but were expected and enjoyed. But, as I had done last year, I wanted to go more for bucket list locations.
Which is how I ended up in Arizona at the Round Valley Dome. I also wanted to make a targeted effort to see games at the remaining stadiums of District 10. And if not for some changes, I would’ve gotten all but two of them finished this season.
For District 10, I attended games at Fort LeBoeuf, Seneca, Eisenhower, McDowell, Conneaut, Greenville, Harbor Creek, and Kennedy Catholic. I would’ve added Fairview, Cathedral Prep, Cambridge Springs, Mercyhurst Prep and Warren had my plans not changed.
So, going forward, I still, now have Fairview, Girard, Cathedral prep, North East, Mercyhurst Prep, Cambridge Springs and Warren left.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, I saw new places at Troy, Rochester, Strattansville (Central Clarion), and Smethport. Not as much as I had hoped going into 2021. The Smethport and Troy trips were combined with New York games that weekend. Smethport was also one of the nicest ‘sceneries’ of new places this year. However, Troy was just a fantastic place that I hope some day I can make my way back over there. Maybe for another Thursday or Saturday game. The old fair grandstand is a great setting for a high school game. Reminds me of Chagrin Falls or Caldwell in Ohio.
Outside of Pennsylvania, I added two new stadiums in Ohio. The rebuilt stadium in Canton now dubbed the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at the site of the former Fawcett Stadium. And Arcanum. A great venue and all around great atmosphere for a game. I saw them host a Thursday night on the trip to Ball State.
In New York, I returned to Clymer and Panama for CSP games once again. The first against three-team co-op Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove. A one year emergency co-op after Maple Grove was unable to field a team this season. The second a crucial matchup against eventual Section 6 Champion Randolph. I then saw a game on Thursday at Salamanca. The Warriors were hosting Fredonia. Two of my favorite Section 6 teams. I had planned to see a game at Gowanda/Pine Valley. However, thanks to their loss to Fredonia the week prior, did not have enough players available to host their game. After seeing Smethport that Friday, I then was back in New York for St. Joseph’s in Buffalo hosting Erie. It was my first time at the square field along Buffalo’s northside. It would be, I was surprised to find looking back, my last game in New York.
With New York pushing back their season one weekend, meant that the Buffalo weekend was now the same weekend as Iowa. And with the two-weekend trip planned, was unable to cover it. I had planned to be in New York for their state finals. Those being the week prior to Pennsylvania’s. However, only one Section 6 school advanced that far. And logistically was a long shot to attend at that point. So, I did the Central Valley game on Friday and two of the three West Virginia games on Saturday.
Elsewhere, though? I got a lot of new places. The weekends lined up perfectly for multiple games in multiple places. Starting in Kansas with Junction City and Santa Fe Trail, and added the doubleheader at Dodge City to close out my travels out west.
Elsewhere, were games in Pender (Nebraska), Ipswich (South Dakota), Ashley (North Dakota), Hooker (Oklahoma), and Eagar (Arizona). Two games in Texas (El Paso Pebble Hills and Petrolia) as well as two games in New Mexico (Pine Hill and Grants).
I added 100 new teams to my total. And 27 new stadiums. I saw 197 different teams in 46 different stadiums. In 16 different states. Arizona was my 39th different state. Leaving me with 11 states remaining. I have the northeastern states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut left. And the northwestern states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. As well as the ubiquitous Alaska and Hawaii. Of those, I’ve seen other sports than high school football in Connecticut, Idaho and Washington.
Of the new teams I’ve seen this year, my new favorite would probably be Pender. I’ve been through the town a few times over the past couple years. And the stadium sits right on the main road: route 9. They’re an 8-man team in the NSAA and had a very good season in 2021. When I do games, I like to be unknown. Though many schools that know I’m there will try to be gracious hosts, I like to just go in as an average joe and not let them know someone from elsewhere in the country is documenting their game and the experience there. I’ve been invited back again in the future. And may just take them up on that. But, I also like to see new places. So, we’ll see. Clarkson-Leigh, West Point, North Bend, Platteview and Stuart are also on my list for the Home of Arbor Day. So, we shall see.
I’m now up to 1,397 different teams. 443 different stadiums. In 1,273 all-time games. Of those, 1,045 were in the past ten years. An average of 104.5 per season. This calendar year, I attended 157 total high school football games. In the past four years, I’ve attended 451 games. A ridiculous 112.75 games per season.
For my favorite new stadiums, I’d go–in chronological order–with:
City Park, Gainesville, Georgia
This was part of the Corky Kell Classic and my third day of games in Georgia. It was a single game. And this park was great. It literally is a city park. The field is surrounded by everything else you’d find in a city park. Including the aforementioned playground my daughter loved. The field has no surrounding track, and the home side is a two tiered bowl, though not two-decks. The upper level is narrower than the length of the field stands down low on the home side. It sits in a hillside depression. The concessions and field house are situated on a raised platform overlooking the southeast endzone. The large scoreboard sits at the far endzone surrounded by trees.
Arcanum Booster Stadium, Arcanum, Ohio
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This place is a microcosm of high school football in America. Small, close to the field, surrounded by fans along the edges. The low scoreboard to the far end. Grass. The water tower peaking up above the northern endzone? Just a perfect scene.
Alparon Park, Troy, Pennsylvania
This is part of a fairground, and it is a relic. The large covered grandstand. Tremendous lighting. The field is far from the stands and separated by a large dirt horsetrack. The visitor stands are tiny and along the visitors’ sideline. Free admission on the night I arrived, regardless of covering them. And the fairground themed food smelled incredible.
Smethport Area Stadium, Smethport, Pennsylvania
This one is all about the scenery. In fact, the south endzone or visitor side gives a better view of the surroundings. I was told years ago about this place when I raved about Sheffield’s Wolverine Mountain. And I must say that it lived up to the hype. The Hubbers have a great stadium to call their own.
Heyne Memorial Field, Pender, Nebraska
Smack dab in the center of town. It’s rare to see that these days. Especially out west. An amalgamation of baseball and football, the backstop of the baseball field is situated to the northeast corner with a great visual of the baseball stands surrounded by block walls painted white. The left outfield butts up to the north endzone. The field is compact with great views of the action. Even with the slightly smaller 8-man field, it doesn’t feel distant from the stands like many do. Even the rain couldn’t dampen the enjoyment of this place as the game wound to a close. Heyne Memorial Field is a great small town football stadium and one the Pendragon faithful should be proud to call home.
Ashley Field, Ashley, North Dakota
There’s not much to this field. There’s not even a name. As is my custom when I stumble upon a small field lacking an official name, it becomes: (town) Field. After all, it is a field in the town. But in Ashley, it’s so much more.
I’ve driven by this field several times now in my life. And it had quickly piqued my interest. On the western edge of town, it’s sandwiched between a ballfield and the school. Ringed on half the elongated oval by trees, it just has a character to it. Seeing my first game here–during the day and during the playoffs–made this something special.
Though a co-op with nearby Wishek (and named South Border), the team carries the Mustangs banner and colors of Ashley High School. The field was decked out in blue and black pageantry. There is no sideline here. It’s stand where you want. An informal line created by rope is all that divides the spectactors from the spectated. The small pressbox aloft at the midfield stripe boomed with sound. Enough to make me flee that relatively open stretch of sideline. For good reason no one stood there for long. The sound was defeaning. A trailer parked beside it was used, via its roof, to broad the game on television. Across the way, a small setup for radio with two ladders acting as podiums for the commentators to see the field.
The atmosphere alone made the day memorable. The field made it perfect. It may be the place with no name, but it’s definitely home for the South Border Mustangs.
Round Valley Dome, Eagar, Arizona
What can be said about the only domed high school football stadium in the country? Sure, there are other high schools in other states that play their games in a dome. Frisco ISD in Texas, Cedar Falls in Iowa, Vermillion in South Dakota, Pocatello in Idaho; but none are truly high school football stadiums. They just play there. They weren’t built just for them.
Round Valley Dome? Was built by Round Valley School District. The dome opened as the Round Valley Ensphere in 1991. At a cost of nearly $20.9 million in today’s dollars. At some point over time, the signage out front calls it “Round Valley Dome”, though there’s no clear rhyme or reason for the change in designation. Though it was clear to me that “Dome” has won out over “Ensphere” in local vernacular.
Aside from being a dome. it’s a wooden dome. Large wooden trusses crisscross above the field to form a large circular dome. The stands on the home side are quite large and set high off the ground. Allowing a near perfect line between the edge of the stands and the sideline. Hiding the home squad under the front edge. The visitor stands aren’t so impressive. Small, portable stands are situated along the visitor sideline and at floor level. The fans are free to walk behind the endzone from the home side to the visitor side.
Though renovated in 2015 due to flooding damage, the lighting is quite perplexing. It’s an all-encompassing orangish yellow tint. Modernizing to newer LEDs with their bright white light would work wonders. But, it drowns the field in Round Valley’s secondary color of their black and yellow uniforms. Everything becomes yellow.
The homeside feels like any other domed stadiums. The concessions are situated on the concourse that’s near exterior ground level when you enter. The restrooms are under the stands, accessible from the concourse. Plaques and banners adorn the concourse. It feels big time. Major. Professional. And yet, it’s a high school. A high school at 7,080 feet elevation plays here. In a large flat valley on the edge of the White Mountains.
The game? Well, it wasn’t much of one. Despite Round Valley sitting at 8-0 and Snowflake at 7-1, the game was quickly out of hand. Snowflake moved at will against Round Valley and quieted the boisterous, echo-chambered fan base. The visiting Snowflake Lobos would win comfortably, 52-8. Which included a 52 yard field goal to cap off the scoring for the night.
I left this place in awe. It is a true high school football stadium. It just has a dome over it. And it just feels like it’s meant to.
TRAVEL & FOOD
With far fewer weekends and far fewer trips, my travel itinerary was varied. Though, I definitely had time to stop and enjoy the culinary differences. So, in no particular order, is my favorite places of the season.
Trip to Georgia isn't complete with side trips. Sushi Bomb in Robinson Twp for lunch. #roadtrippin #lunch pic.twitter.com/Y36vxkJc69
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 16, 2021
Sushi Bomb, Robinson Twp, Pennsylvania
It starts with the first round trip. Now, I’ve been to this place before. It’s all-you-can-eat Sushi. You just tell them what you want from the list, and they’ll bring it to you. When it’s busy, it gets a little hectic, so you want to order enough so you can wait for your next plate. But, don’t over order. There’s no take-home for this. And you’ll pay for the overages. So, order accordingly.
Lamb Chops…… *drool* #roadtrippin #dinner https://t.co/yRK0Fe7hCS pic.twitter.com/jXCl4KJtex
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 17, 2021
Brasilia Steakhouse, Asheville, North Carolina
Further on the Georgia trip was the first of two Brazilian Steakhouses. They may be pricy, but they’re usually phenomenal for experience. Plus, all-you-can-eat lamb chops will always get my business. This little place was not busy at all, as a downpour passed through town minutes after we were comfortably seated by a window to watch the mayhem ensue outside.
Tacos at @MBStadium #dinner pic.twitter.com/BcGSR7wll1
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 21, 2021
Concessions at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Luckily, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is not an expensive place to eat. At least as far as stadiums go. With Covid restrictions in place, there was no food for the media. But the cheap concourse prices weren’t bad. Chik-Fil-A was open. But the highlight were these street tacos. Also, the bottomless fountain drinks weren’t bad, either.
Stopped at Brazieros in Knoxville, Tennessee…. Well made decision. #roadtrippin #dinner pic.twitter.com/gnyunB31hr
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 22, 2021
Brazieros, Knoxville, Tennessee
On the way home, was a stop at another Brazilian Steakhouse. This one in Knoxville. It was good. A little more ‘upscale’ than Texas de Brazil or the awful one I later experienced in Minnesota. They were a little stingy with the lamb chops. However, this was the first one I had seen that was serving the roasted pineapple on the sword. And it was phenomenal. A new love of pineapple was born that day.
And now my second favorite game day tradition: Texas de Brazil. #roadtrippin #dinner pic.twitter.com/CUjgtEvNZM
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 26, 2021
Texas de Brazil, Woodmere, Ohio (and others)
This is what got me into Brazilian Steakhouses. It’s a chain, but it’s done well. It’s pricy, but if you’re in the mood it’s worth it. However, since Covid the lamb chops, if they have them, are an additional expense. One that I was willing to pay one time. It’s not all-you-can-eat like the rest of the meat options. Overall, it is what it is. Save your stomach some room if you plan to eat here to get your money’s worth.
Chicken on the Rod. #roadtrippin #dinner pic.twitter.com/duDmPhSwys
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 27, 2021
Nahla’s, New Castle, Pennsylvania
This was not specifically on a game day, though I do eat here often. It’s at the old Taco Bell north of town on the way to Neshannock. A good, simple Mediterranean restaurant. Stuffed grape leaves and chicken on the rod are both excellent here.
24oz Prime Rib au Jus. #roadtrippin #dinner https://t.co/Q0X5oWf1Re pic.twitter.com/Nuu1y6WaOH
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 1, 2021
Beefeaters, Bradford, Pennsylvania
Spending the night between my Thursday in Salamanca and my Friday in Smethport, I stopped at Beefeaters in Bradford. The water quality was definitely unfiltered. However, the prime rib made up for it. 1.5 pounds of prime rib. I forget the price. But it wasn’t that expensive. Looking it up, it was $38.95 plus tax and gratuity. The ambiance of this place wins though. Just as in Corry, this place is located in a former library. The Carnegie Library in Bradford is an excellent setting. Rustic, industrial, and opulent all at once.
Patty Melt and Potato Salad. #dinner #roadtrippin https://t.co/glutHIAGVo pic.twitter.com/TZDpASaIKb
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 2, 2021
Peg’s Place, Hamburg, New York
What can I say? This was my second time here and got the same order. The patty melt wins, along with the German potato salad. I also got the pizza logs, which are a Western New York staple. Sadly, for me, this was my last meal before my car decided it wanted to rest. For good. But, I won’t be superstitious. I’ll be back again some day. St. Francis High School’s field is right down the street.
No high school football for me today. Kansas isn't really known for Saturday games. But I did get real Sprite and homemade burritos. #winning #dinner #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/xMl92Ka3ho
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 10, 2021
Unknown Burrito Stand, Somewhere, Kansas
Real Sprite and a really good burrito. Sure, it wasn’t a game to be had anywhere that Saturday. But, that combination is still a win in my book.
Burgers for lunch at one of my favorite places. Drakes Place in Bowdle, South Dakota. (one of the three towns that comprise the North Central co-op I saw last night). #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/ucjGsN1KDK
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 16, 2021
Drakes Place, Bowdle, South Dakota
This isn’t anywhere new. But this is one of my favorite places in South Dakota. Small little one-stop all in one convenience store/gas station/diner along US12 on the southern edge of Bowdle. The burgers here are worth the stop alone. Mushroom and Swiss, especially. But also, my newfound–it can’t possibly make sense–Cottage Cheese Pie is here. And it’s amazing.
Took a while…. #dinner #roadtrippin https://t.co/j0V9seYaY4 pic.twitter.com/yRdwGSHD3R
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 23, 2021
Trailriders Restaurant, Eagar, Arizona
This place was recommended to me in town. and it was worth the stop. Even if service was slowed due to the pregame rush, the Prime Rib was perfection. I still made it over to the Round Valley Dome for the game.
One of the best burritos I've ever found in the ABQ is from a food truck parked on a side street.#roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/m6PCixazrJ
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) October 24, 2021
Food Truck, Albuquerque, New Mexico
It’s funny that I’m from Pennsylvania originally, living in Ohio, and yet when I’m in Albuquerque, I have a favorite off-the-beaten-path place for a burrito. The general location is near the Maverick gas station or Flying J truck stop west of town parked on the side street. They’re open fairly late. And they have the best burritos I’ve come across in New Mexico. Only the burrito truck in Tucson that I found did better. And that’s only a tad higher because they use cabbage as well.This just has onions and cilantro as the veggie filler. Though the steak makes up for any diminished volume. Also, Mexican Orange Crush. Complete with the bottle opener hung on a string from the window.
Ribeye Sandwich at Benjamin's in Covington, Indiana. #roadtrippin #dinner pic.twitter.com/ELjzOfj0mn
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) November 8, 2021
Benjamin’s, Covington, Indiana
Second time stopping here. And it’s worth the stop. Last time the special was beef and noodles. Today? This monster Ribeye Sandwich. So much it was just served open face with onions. Ate enough of it to close it back into a sandwich. Like two meals in one.
Lunch in Minnesota with the Browns game on TV…. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/Gcb1taG6eR
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) November 14, 2021
Skol Woodfire Grill & Tavern, Albert Lea, Minnesota
This is part of the Petro Stopping Center in town. Pre-covid, I stopped here and it was an all-you-can-eat buffet of meat. However, now, it’s order and served by the pound. And that price adds up quickly. The ribs were a bit dry this time, but the chicken andn hashbrown casserole were gerat. As was the meatloaf concoction. Also, instead of watching the Browns-Patriots game on my tablet, the game was on locally and shown on the big screen. Which, in hindsight, was probably best unseen. Hopefully one day it goes back to the all-you-can-eat smorgasboard it was before.
Dutch Pantry, Chouteau, Oklahoma
I, weirdly, didn’t take a photo of this place. I wish I had. it’s a very small, very simple restaurant with a buffet. The food is decent. The menu item du jour was chicken fried steak. Cut into these small squares. The pies, though, steal the show. All you can eat, and you can eat a lot. Lots of variations and all great. It’s in a small town along US69 in northeastern Oklahoma. It’s a worthy stop if you’re ever in this area.
Monterrey Chicken Fajita. #OnTheBorder #dinner #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/CJGi5ayiy4
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 15, 2021
On The Border, Arlington, Texas
This is the third time, I think, that I’ve eaten here. It’s good. The Monterrey Chicken Fajita is a meal and a half. Though, the smoked queso was something indiscribly odd. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It just wasn’t food. Sweet Tea though is excellent.
The second best reason to come to this stadium: Brisket Nachos. #UILState @TXHSFB pic.twitter.com/89uw8kg2Zx
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 17, 2021
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Every year. EVERY year. I get the Brisket Nachos. Except last year, though. Because of Covid. So I was looking forward to them again this year. For price, it is the best value you’ll find at the stadium. Even with the price increase from $12 to $13.50, it’s still well worth it. I get it without the jalapenos. And get some extra barbeque sauce to make sure it works its way into all the chips. Then it’s just, after eating the first few, smash with a fork until it’s turned into a Brisket Nacho Casserole. And damn delicious. The brisket stand is only open on Friday and Saturday. But this year I had eaten at the DCTF Subscriber event before the game and went the whole day without food.
Get this instead. Cheesesteak fries. pic.twitter.com/adxdKAmWXq
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 16, 2021
On Wednesday and Thursday, my options wre the Philly Cheesesteak (no bueno), and the Cheesesteak Fries. Now, those were good. Pricy. Pricier than the Nachos for what you get. But far better than a sandwich or run-of-the-mill chicken tenders.
Been meaning to stop here before. Old Sawmill Cafe in Arkansas. Southern comfort food on a buffet. #roadtrippin #lunch pic.twitter.com/RhSDuPjhv3
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 19, 2021
Ole Sawmill Cafe, Forrest City, Arkansas
This place was a find. One of the best restaurants I’ve ever honestly come across in all my years traveling. And that’s saying something. Not just the quality of the food, and the number of options, but also the price for it all.
This place will be the death of me. #roadtrippin #lunch pic.twitter.com/nYd8NHm7yL
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 19, 2021
I wish I knew to come here on an absolutely empty stomach. The ribs were good. But the chicken, chicken in gravy, catfish, corn, and cheesy broccoli were phenomenal.
Bliss on a plate. Catfish, cooked apples and bread pudding. An eclectic bunch. #roadtrippin #lunch pic.twitter.com/noTMofQNMh
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 19, 2021
And the bread pudding would make anyone happy. The sweet tea was also perfectly brewed and served. Cold, but not jarringly sweet, but not watery. It takes skill to get that right.
Pizza Ranch (various)
I ate at several of these during the fall season. And yet, never documented it. Though, here’s a photo from June in Minnesota. Named for Pizza. Famous for their fried chicken. Though, of their pizza options, the Buffalo Chicken is by far the winner. If they don’t have what you want on the buffet, you just ask for it and they’ll make it for you. Serve you the slices you want and leave the rest on the buffet for others. It’s a constant process. However, the Pizza Ranch buffet is not all day. It only runs for lunch, and then starts again for dinner. During that in between, if they’re open, is just a regular menu. And that dinner rush comes with a fury. Cedar Falls was not prepared for the onslaught and were constantly out of food for a rather full dining room. But even with those headaches, they do have great food cheap. Most of the time.
I'm a sucker for proximity. Tough to go elsewhere when this is in the parking lot. #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/URZXvhiPWv
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 20, 2021
Longhorn Steakhouse (various)
Generally, I prefer Texas Roadhouse, however strictly for a steak, Longhorn wins with their bone-in ribeye. I’ll stop at one practically anywhere I am in the country. With one in the parking lot of my hotel in Georgia, meant two trips here. Among others throughout the season.
One of the best burgers in the South: @CookOut. Also makes great chicken sandwiches. #roadtrippin #lunch pic.twitter.com/ANMq3pTfMy
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 23, 2021
When you’re in the southeast and want a burger, this is the place to stop. They’re cheap. They’re small. But you can get a bunch of them. The chicken with cajun seasoning is also another stalwart of my Cookout orders.
Trying out @Choolaahyum for the first time. Not too bad. Cheaper than most Indian but lacking in options. The mango lemonade is phenomenal. #roadtrippin #dinner pic.twitter.com/0ynSLiHOMR
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) September 23, 2021
This is new to me, but I had to try it out. Choolaah is an indian fast food restaurant. It’s a chain. The menu is simple and americanized. You pick the protein and the base, and go from there. There’s not a lot of options. So, things like Mahkani, Jalfrezi, Korma, or Vindaloo are a no-go. But there is Tikka Masala. Though it’s a thinner sauce than most traditional Indian restaurants seem to make it. Less cream. Though it’s about halfway between a brothy Curry and a creamy Tikka Masala. For it’s price, it’s not bad. Though the ice cream for my daughter is way overpriced and frozen rock solid. The mango lemonade is an excellent drink choice.
Between game snack. Dusted Ghost Pepper and Arizona Ranch wings at Quaker Steak & Lube. #roadtrippin #dinner pic.twitter.com/ymONyyy6JC
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) December 4, 2021
Quaker Steak & Lube (various)
I don’t know why I keep coming back here. The price for these wings was exorbitant. And they were dry. And not nearly as spicy as they once were. And, I also learned, they had done away with the triple atomic designation for the hottest. As well as the regular atomic wings. Not that I was going to get those between games where I’d spend the next few hours walking a sideline. But, still. The only good QS&L I’ve ever gone to is the original in Sharon. None of the rest have lived up to that lofty placement.
"And here we see a herd of White Pickups, a native species of West Texas, feeding on a freshly killed @Whataburger." #roadtrippin pic.twitter.com/hRV0y0c2DZ
— Sykotyk (@Sykotyk) August 28, 2020
I didn’t take any photos from one this year. But stopped at several while in Texas. It’s good. And in normal years was open 24 hours. Thanks to Covid most are closed by 10 or 11pm. The double with cheese is my go to. Though I recently learned you could substitute the regular bun for the texas toast. And I don’t know how I’m going to live with that revelation.
Freddy’s, Culver’s (various)
These two places are similar. Weirdly, my only stop during football season at a Freddy’s was in El Paso, Texas. Culver’s, meanwhile, is more in the north central part of the country. And I stopped in Iowa at one. Mostly for their custard. Their burgers are hit or miss sometimes. Culver’s has the better burger, but Freddy’s has the better custard.
There’s a lot that just can’t be summed up so simply. So, here’s a few major themes of my 2021 season.
One thing about me, is that I keep track of things. I may always seem to be disorganized. But, numbers work for me. I have to go back and research some things, but I didn’t document, on the site at least, the total number of miles or cost for 2012. But, since 2013, I attended 945 games in 37 states. Total mileage was 149,654 and total cost was $56,684.
Traveling isn’t cheap. There’s things you can do to limit the cost. Fuel efficiency. Closer games. Avoiding hotels. Eating cheaply. But then again, where’s the fun in that? Football is part vacation for me, so I try to enjoy it and not just treat it as a chore.
This year I tried to focus on places I hadn’t been. And, other than a handful of stadiums in New York or Indiana, I tended to keep it that way. I was back again to Clymer, Panama and Salamanca. And my trip to Indiana was again Delta and Ball State. Come playoff time, there’s a lot of repetition this season. Heinz Field, UNI-Dome, US Bank Stadium, Hershey, AT&T Stadium. Certainly fun, but it does get a bit monotonous.
I have a laundry list of bucket list locations to see. And I plan to see them. But 2022 probably won’t be it. For next year I’m looking at return trips to Iowa, Minnesota, Indianapolis or Syracuse, and AT&T Stadium.
But beyond that? I have some big plans. Also, my daughter is getting to the age where she’s going to really remember traveling. And I want it to be fun for her, too. Alaska is on my long term list. And they start in early August. So, there’s one big plan.
I’m also eyeing a return to California and my first games in Nevada. Assuming the state finals are held again at Allegiant Stadium. Elsewhere, Vermont and Massachusetts are noteworthy. But, I’m also looking at finally visiting Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire. And I want to return to New York City. Either in 2022 or beyond. But, I don’t want to fly to any of these games. So,…
I have three distinct regular season trips this year: Georgia, The Upper Plains, and the Southwest. And as much as I could, and have, written about those first two, the Southwest will be set apart. For a lot of reasons.
Firstly, I had hurt my back, and it was sore through the entire weekend. To the point that, while on the way out of Texas on Friday morning, I had considered cancelling it. Even in an Escalade, I was not that comfortable thanks to my back. But, I somehow still did three more games on the sideline.
Secondly, the Dome. This is a bucket list location. And I’m so glad I made the trip anyways. It’s also a part of the country that’s surprisingly absent from my travels. I’d only been near this area once before. And to say I was ‘near’ was questionable at best. This no-man’s-land between I-40 and I-10 and between I-17 and I-25 is a part I missed out on to some extent. Back when I traveled Colorado and New Mexico to reach the last remaining counties, I had passed through east of here. But never along US191 in Eastern Arizona.
Thirdly a new state. Arizona was now the 39th state I’ve been to for a high school football game. It wasn’t the first time I had been to a game in Arizona. In fact, my first ever game in this state was ArenaBowl XVIII. At the last moment, I flew out from Pittsburgh to Phoenix the night before/morning of. I slept briefly at the Hotel San Carlos, before making my way over with a crew of Arena Fan regulars to the arena. At the time it, it was known as the America West Arena, but today is the Footprint Center.
Was a great game. 69-62 in favor of San Jose. It was my second of three straight years going to ArenaBowls. I also had been to a few games at Kino Stadium in Tucson. For a brief time, the Padres’ AAA affiliate had to relocate from Portland, and had planned to move somewhere. In the interim, they played as the Tucson Padres. I saw two games there against the Las Vegas 51s in June, 2013. On June 18th and 19th. The next year, the Padres had relocated to El Paso to become the El Paso Chihuahuas. However their stadium was not completed. So, they started the season in Tucson. And there, in April 2014, I saw them once again.
This was my third such Buick Regal. They’re good cars. Very comfortable. And I was sad to see this one go. Had I known the resale value of used cars would skyrocket, I might have tried to keep it going for another year or two. However, it’s major issues had compiled into a car I wasn’t keen on keeping. It had no A/C, or heat, or interior lights, or odometer, or functional power driver seat, rear power windows, power trunk latch, or functioning rear view mirror adjuster. And that’s just cosmetic and creature comforts.
The worst was the transmission issues, including slipping gears. The problem was needing a new transmission. As long as I drove it to not cause it to slip, I was fine. But then it had engine issues. Head gasket alone, but also had a bad miss. Replaced plugs and wires, but that wasn’t the culprit. By the end, it was primarily running on 5 cylinders. And it still lasted another year. Had it been one or the other, I would’ve probably replaced the engine or transmission. But the rust made me decide that just driving it until it died as the best course. Even when it started consuming a gallon of coolant for every hundred miles or so, it still ran another three months. Until it didn’t.
By then, I had ordered a new truck through Ford. But, the delay in production meant that I still haven’t gotten it as of this writing. So, on that fateful Saturday in Hamburg, New York, it finally had enough. I managed to drive it almost all the way home. Before I finally had to stop for AAA to tow it home. I was going to tow it from New York. AAA would’ve towed it for free since it was under 200 miles. The problem was trying to find a tow truck that would haul it that far WITH me there, since Covid restricted most tow trucks from allowing riders. At least in New York.
So, at that point, it was just a matter of getting the car to drive as far as it possibly could. Which meant giving up my night game at Mercyhurst Prep. I wasn’t disappointed in it. I pushed that car about as far as one could. In the end, I got a year out of it. And it took me to Philadelphia several times, New York City twice, and countless trips this season. Not bad for a car I got for $100.
My season started in Georgia, and I quickly got involved with Score Atlanta, who runs the Corky Kell Classic. I had already gotten the media passes, but we did a trade-off for photos. I did photos in Texas for Texas Redzone Report again. Though I was not able to get into the state finals as a photographer. That might change for next season. Later, though, I was in Minnesota for the state semifinals. And through a contact there, Magnitude Sports, I should get sideline passes for photographing the games at US Bank Stadium. Which I am looking forward to. Of course, I was prowling the sidelines at Hershey for the PIAA Finals. And also, my first time at the West Virginia “Super Six” at Wheeling. Though I was only there for Saturday. And it was my second time on the sideline at Heinz Field for the WPIAL Finals.
In 2022, I will be on the sideline at the Brawl at the Beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. A week after returning to the Corky Kell Classic in Georgia. I’m planning a weekend to Philadelphia as well as a trip to Ironton’s Tanks Memorial Stadium. I have a two-week trip to Iowa and Minnesota once again planned. As well as WPIAL and PIAA Finals. And if things work, NYSPHSAA State Finals at Syracuse. Though, that might change depending on which teams are in it. This past year, only one Section 6 team qualified and I opted to forego the trip thanks to my back already being an issue.
#5 Filling In The Map
So, of all the traveling I plan, there’s two goals I have. Visiting every county (or equivalent) in the U.S., and seeing a high school game in every state. Certainly, my Northeast and Northwest plans will finish that off. For the 48, and then Alaska and Hawaii. But, getting the rest of the counties is going to take some specific planning. My daughter and I will be taking a trip through Michigan this Summer, and I’ll visit the rest of those counties. As well as see some new baseball parks along the way. Virginia and North Carolina will be included with our trip to Georgia this August. And Maryland? Possibly with the trip to or from New Jersey. The northeast is going to have to wait until a later date. Especially the two island counties of Massachusetts. Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard are not without planning.
PHOTOS OF THE YEAR
Punt block by Johns Creek at Gainesville (Georgia)
Fort LeBoeuf Strips Grove City
Pasture of Pain, Russell, Pennsylvania
Sometimes Calls Don’t Go Your Way
Sometimes All Your Ducks Are In A Row
Round Valley Dome, Eagar, Arizona
52 Yard Field Goal At 7,000 Feet
All Smiles For Senior Day/Homecoming
Angry Jack, Grants, New Mexico
Great Photos Are Sometimes Accidents
Wild West Bowl, Dodge City, Kansas
Stretching For A Championship, Natoma Tigers, Kansas
A Flock of Nighthawks (Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley)
Pennsylvania Championship Game
Central Valley v. Wyomissing, Instant Classic
Tommy Grabowski With A One-Handed Interception To Preserve A Scoreless Game
Everything’s Bigger In Texas (Denton Guyer)
For more favorite photos from this season, click HERE.
For all my photos from this season and before, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/sykotyk/sets/
2022 and Beyond
So where do I go from here? I stil have so many places to see. But I’m starting to coalesce a plan together for my future endeavors. In 2023, I’m planning a Northeast Weekend. The Vermont State Finals are held on the second weekend of November. It’s three games played as a tripleheader at Rutland High School. They finish much sooner than other states. Which gives other options for Friday night in New Hampshire. And then there’s games in Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut at some point. However, there is the possibility of Thanksgiving Day games at Fenway Park again. And that’s the prior to the Massachusetts finals at Gillette Stadium. I also want to return to New York City. Though I would love to see the City Championship if it returns to Yankee Stadium. Preferably if Abraham Lincoln were to make it one season.
And then there’s the Northwest. Right now, I’m figuring 2024 for Oregon and Washington. Possibly Idaho as well. Though that might be another year for the Rocky Mountain Rumble to kickoff a season.
And lastly, of course. The long term plans for Alaska and Hawaii. Right now, those are for 2025 and 2026. My daughter will be older then. And will enjoy the mid August trips before school.
Which is the big thing about the future: My daughter. Getting to take her to a few games this year was incredibly fun. Even if it did limit my ability to photograph the games. I’m grateful to the Corky Kell for giving her her own press pass to be with me. Which was the only way that Week 0 worked the way it did.
I only got to take her to two more games through the year. At Steubenville and at Greenville. As the years go on, I hope to take her to more. As long as she enjoys it. And for the most part she has. Some of the bigger trips are with her in mind. And I hope she enjoys traveling as much as I did. And considering she’s already excited about our baseball trip this June and returning to Georgia in August, I think she might. After all, she is my daughter. Sitting still isn’t something we do. Always on the move.
But, no matter where I wind up, I’m sure I’ll have fun.
100 New Teams
27 New Stadiums
1,397 different teams
443 different stadiums
1,273 total games