Sunday, July 24, 2011

High School Football in the South

High School Football is a huge part of living in the South. In fact, it’s almost a southern religion. Every year, football season is eagerly anticipated by a large portion of the community. It usually starts with spring practice, when the local team is sized up by the community, and scrimmages are held.

High school football is a big deal with southern living. How big? I’ll give you an example. Our state-of-the-art football stadium holds 10,000 people, even though the population of our small town is only around 15,000 or so, according to the 2000 census. At big games, the stadium is filled, too.

Attending Friday night football games is sort of a ritual in the Deep South, especially in small, close-knit communities, where most people know the players and the coaches. Before the most important games, community pep rallies are often held, and they might include bonfires, bands, guest speakers, and more. And if the team makes it to the playoffs, the pep rallies get even bigger, and more community events are held. The last time our team made it to the state semi-finals, hordes of people lined the highway leading out of town to cheer the buses as the boys left. Many fans were holding up signs.

If you’re not accustomed to high school football games in the Deep South, allow me to describe one for you. You buy your ticket the day before or at the gate, unless you hold season passes for reserved seating. You find your seat immediately, or you stop first for some snacks: boiled peanuts, roasted peanuts, cotton candy, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, nachos, candy apples, popcorn, candy bars, and soft drinks. The atmosphere is very festive, and there’s a strong sense of camaraderie among the fans. You visit with friends and neighbors while you wait for the game to start.
At starting time, the United States flag is raised, and the high school band plays the Star Spangled Banner. Sometimes there’s a vocalist, too. The home team’s and the visiting team’s cheerleaders have made huge paper banners beforehand. When the teams exit the field house, they crash through these banners as they enter the field, while the band plays the school’s fight song. At our stadium, we have the added effect of smoke billowing from the field house. And then the action starts.

Many southern teams do something special every time they score. For example, a cannon is fired at our stadium when the home team scores points in the game, and the cheering from the home side is even louder than the cannon blast.

At halftime, the home band and the visiting band entertain the crowd with some pretty impressive shows that include marching, configurations, flags, and in some schools, baton twirling. Also during the halftime break, the cheerleaders toss small footballs to the crowd, and just about every fan tries to catch one. All in all, attending a high school football game in the South is a great way to spend an evening, and it's a wonderful part of southern living!

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