Jeff Haws’ Top 10 List

At The List, we clearly enjoy football in all its forms. High school, college, NFL, Canadian, Arena, backyard two-hand touch … just give us yard lines and first downs and a few wild touchdown dances, and we’re a happy bunch.
But as much as we love all the football we can get, it’s really Friday nights that get us going. And with college football starting its attempt to steal the spotlight this week, it made us think about how much better Fridays are.
Oh, sure. College and NFL football can have their fancy scholarships and diamond-studded championship rings, but give us a couple of local high schools down the street from each other, battling it out for bragging rights, and all is right with our world.
It may not be a popular opinion, but there’s plenty of reasons why high school football is better than both …
10. Parents in the crowd
Look around the stands at any high school football game after just about any game, and you’ll see parents cheering on their kid. Whether he’s the University of Georgia-bound star, or that skinny kid who finally got into the game, there’s a good chance he’s got parents or other family in the stands, telling everyone around them “That’s my boy.”
9. Play with the team you’ve got
In the NFL, you get to pick your new players from a pool of the best college guys in the country; in the highest level of the NCAA, you give free education to the best high school players in order to get them to play for you. In high school, though, you get the kids who live in your district, and you go try to win with them. And even if they’re no good, there’s no multi million-dollar TV contract to lose.
8. Embedding into the neighborhood
How great is it when you go see a game at a place like Valdosta, where the stadium is historic and built right into the middle of a neighborhood that supports its team like few others. It’s just one example among many of high school football teams being the pride of the neighborhood that surrounds it. At the higher levels, the fanbases get bigger, more spread out and more impersonal. We want to hear the band on our front porch.
7. One night (mostly)
Oh, there’s typically a handful of Saturday high school games each week, and they’ll occasionally pop up on a Thursday, but Friday night is home. That’s when all the big games will be. That’s when you have to choose which of all the games to check out that night. No chasing TV dollars, just kids and marching bands and Friday night lights. And maybe a cheap hot dog or two.
6. Creative nicknames
We love when teams go a little out there with their nickname. Haven’t we all seen enough Tigers and Lions and Bears and Eagles? I mean, nothing against them all, but there’s rarely anything there identifiable with the city or school or area. Some colleges do decently with this, but the vast majority play it pretty safely. The NFL is the same way. You know you’ll never see the Atom Smashers or the Syrupmakers in the NFL, right? High school wins here.
5. Ticket prices
If you’ve got a family of four, you probably can’t afford to all head to an NFL or major college game without mortgaging your house and selling off one of your two kids. Not that we’d know from experience or anything. But even a state championship game is probably going to cost you less than $100, including some food and maybe even a big foam finger.
4. Players who are just good enough
Everybody with an NFL or major college scholarship was a huge star at the lower level. They probably dominated at times and are in their school’s Hall of Fame. Heck, they might have a statue outside the stadium by this point. But in high school, lots of these kids haven’t even played before, at least not any more than getting tackled on some dirt patch down the street where they grew up. They’re just learning the game, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch the scrawny kid become a starter by his senior year.
3. Shaking hands after the game
If they can do it after NHL playoff series, where half the players probably emerge with half their teeth gone, why can’t they do this after NFL and college games? All they do is have the coaches do a quick drive-by shake to placate the TV viewers, and then they’re off to talk to Erin Andrews. After high school games, every player and every coach lines up to shake hands, just like you did in Little League. It reminds us that this is a game in the end, and running into each other for 2.5 hours doesn’t mean you can’t stay friends.
2. Playing both sides of the ball
It used to be the norm, even in the NFL, many decades ago. Now, everybody’s a specialist at the higher levels. Hardly anybody even seems to play multiple positions, much less multiple sides of the ball. They just can’t handle it, can they? Yeah, well, our high school heroes will keep that fire burning. Particularly in the smaller classifications, pretty much everybody does this. But even on the AAAAAA level, it’s rather common to get your best players on the field as much as possible. Ironman football, people. It’s how it’s meant to be played. Let the quarterback make a few tackles. It’ll be good for him. Builds character.
1. Playoffs
Yeah, the NFL does it right. And major NCAA football finally took a step in the right direction with this four-team format they’ll put in a couple of years from now. But that still doesn’t come close to matching the March Madness-style intensity of the 32-team high school football playoff. Getting those brackets, examining them, making predictions and then watching it all play out is basically the highlight of our year at The List. Maybe those college boys will come around some day. But until then, we’ve got the best thing going right here in Georgia.

But we want to know what you think. Do you prefer high school football over college/NFL? Why or why not? Which reasons did we miss? Are you still ready to hit the field and play both sides of the ball? Comment here or hit us up on Twitter at @ajcprepsports to let us know.

32 comments Add your comment

Hubert Green

August 28th, 2012
11:15 pm

I must admit there is nothing quite like seeing those bright lights, smelling that buttered popcorn, and hearing the bands march into the stadium, and feeling the excitement of the only game in town on a Friday night: high school football. I’m 40 years beyond the moment, but I can still remember that feeling I had coming out as a captain before a game under the bright lights.

Max Sizemore

August 29th, 2012
8:22 am

Really, really nice job, Jeff. Outstanding.


August 29th, 2012
9:13 am

I know there’s no crying in Football but this made my eyes water a bit. This is my 18th season in college Football, and even as a woman there really is nothing as special as hometown high school Football. Well written.

Jeff Haws

August 29th, 2012
9:49 am

Max Sizemore, Snix – Thanks. I appreciate the kind words. If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear it.


August 29th, 2012
9:58 am

Jeff – Great article. I love 9 out of 10 of the points. The only one I wonder about, which has nothing to do with you and I actually wish it was the way you put it of “Play with the team you’ve got”, is the trend of recruiting at the high school level. Now it’s, who is willing to transfer in at some schools. There are those who do in fact “play with what they’ve got”, and those are to be respected and they do it right. Unfortunately it seems like this is becoming a forgotten staple in High School athletics across the board, not just football. I think it’s even worse in basketball to be honest.


August 29th, 2012
10:11 am

Nice Article………The small towns still have the purest form of the game. They really do play with what they have…….. :-)


August 29th, 2012
10:49 am

Football Dad and Greatful High School Fan

August 29th, 2012
11:20 am

Loved, Loved, Loved the article. There is nothing like Friday Night football. Watching your young football player dream of playing one day for their high school under the lights on Friday and then beening able to watch your son’s smallest dreams come true is PRICELESS. They may not all make it to college to play but for just a short time these young men get to experience the feeling of going into battle with thier team mates and friends.


August 29th, 2012
11:26 am

Great column. Think you nailed it.

Big Friday nite games around these parts, still gives me chill bumps


August 29th, 2012
11:30 am

In Valdosta at Bazemore Hyder…it all starts with the helmet banging of the tin roof….the fight song…the crowd standing….and the Wildcats taking the field. Nothing much better.

Jeff Haws

August 29th, 2012
11:57 am

Dostahawk – That’s right. I’ve actually only been to Valdosta to cover a game once, back in 2003. Definitely still remember it well. Just something about that place that feels like high school football. Special place to see a game.


August 29th, 2012
2:27 pm

Jeff Haws……Were you in Valdosta during the 2003 championship game? :-)

Jeff Haws

August 29th, 2012
3:35 pm

Camden74 – Actually wasn’t the championship game I covered. I was there for their game against Cherokee in the quarterfinals (I think that’s right) that year. I remember being in awe of the neighorhood and all that. I also remember it being far colder than I expected it to be that far south (it was my first year in Georgia, so forgive my ignorance). Cherokee had a few really good teams around that time, and that was one of them. They fell behind and made a little charge, but Valdosta was just a bit better.


August 29th, 2012
3:52 pm

South Georgia can get surprisingly cold! :-)

Titletown USA

August 29th, 2012
3:53 pm

I think this article should be required reading for all AJC posters to remind everyone what this thing is really all about. Nice read indeed.


August 29th, 2012
3:57 pm

You put it through the center of the uprights Jeff.(from the 50) :-)


August 29th, 2012
4:30 pm

Many of my fondest memories have to do with High School Football in Ga.


August 29th, 2012
4:33 pm

oops..hit enter too soon. I grew up in Greenville, Ga and on Friday night you could have walked away the the town because EVERYONE came to the games!

Jeff Haws

August 29th, 2012
4:42 pm

PatriotDad – That’s really cool. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many of those smaller towns in more rural Georgia during the past 10 years, and it’s always been a pleasure. Never had the chance to see Greenville, but I’d love to check it out sometime. One I’ve never made it to but always wanted to is Lincoln County. I’ve just heard tremendous things about the way the town rallies around that team, with what coach Campbell has done there over the years.


August 29th, 2012
4:52 pm

@Camden74: I read on that “some” are picking Camden to finish #1 in Reg. 1

Also Lowndes fans, reading on there that Lowndes should blow out Luella by over 30 pts for their opening game.

Roll Tide

August 29th, 2012
6:14 pm

Good article…The purity of the game however, is not what it once was. More and more kids playing on teams not where they live. I once a follower of the bigger AAAAAAAAAAAA schools, not so much anymore. The fun is at the A or AA schools.


August 29th, 2012
9:16 pm

Awesome article. You really out did yourself. I prefer high school football. Where else can you go for just 1 night to get away from the politics of the world. Watching a community come together to support the players and everything that makes that night special. The band, cheer leaders, flags and the wild student sections. No alcohol, no smoking. Just a good old fashion goodtime.


August 29th, 2012
9:57 pm

Finally. An article we can all agree on. After spending M-F in an office, staring at a computer, and dealing with the pressures of work, nothing transitions to the weekend better than HS football. My only regret is that it took me nearly 50 years to realize that such affordable, enjoyable (to the whole familty), and exiting entertainment was taking place in my community every Friday night. Better late than never.


August 29th, 2012
10:03 pm

Excellent entertainment. You touched some hearts and wet some eyes. You made some hearts beat faster by stirring the memory of, what is often “That one big play” a lot of us remember. You are smart to go with this style Jeff. Most writers either don’t have the talent or are too “Macho” to take this tack.

Really good job dude. You may make a living at this after all.


August 29th, 2012
10:12 pm

@FootballFan……..I hope they’re right, because I’m picking Camden too! :-D

WR Demons

August 29th, 2012
10:14 pm


August 29th, 2012
11:43 pm

Jeff: Great article. Sometimes (not often) parents of the kids playing get a little overboard and ruin the atmosphere, so #10 is about right for that reason. Speaking of nicknames, Valdosta played a team from Utah in ‘08 or ‘09 nicknamed the Beet Pickers.

RW Gweed

August 30th, 2012
12:20 am

Can’t beat high school football; just two nights away.


August 30th, 2012
12:58 am

there is nothing like highschool football…last year one game just really made me think about it…the mlk vs stephenson game…that week i could not get that game off my mind..when the day finally came you could feel something special was going to happen that night…as i approached the stadium i cold feel the energy coming off 285…. when i got there i could hear the the band playing and could see a line that went from the stadium to almost to where i parked my car…and i said to myself there’s nothing like high school football!!

Jeff Haws

August 30th, 2012
9:11 am

Wow, I think this is the first article I’ve written in roughly 15 years without a single negative comment. It’s sort of an odd feeling, honestly. I really do appreciate all the kind words, everyone. I’m glad each of you seemed to enjoy the piece. Keep it in mind the next time I write something that makes you think I’m an idiot (though you’ll probably be right). I’ll gladly take the negative with the positive. Comes with the territory. But it’s sometimes nice to receive a little praise. Sincerely, thanks.

By the way, if any of you have any more stories about why you love high school football, stories from your playing days, whatever, I’d love to hear them. Just put them in a comment. This seems to be the crowd that will enjoy it. Cheers, all.


August 31st, 2012
12:33 am

Go back to Tennessee, Haws. Oops, sorry, we are in love with you on this one. One thing I have always loved about high school football are the colorful local announcers. Everyone has a story from somewhere on the road where the guy on the mic either had you laughing all night or mad as heck.

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September 15th, 2012
7:48 pm

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