There have been over the years some really big games played at DeKalb County’s little James R. Hallford Stadium (formerly known as Memorial Stadium). But that concrete valley between Memorial Drive and North Indian Creek has never seen the likes of what is about to roll into town this Friday night.
“The World Wide Leader in Sports,” also known as ESPN, is bringing its high school football traveling road show to Clarkston this week to broadcast to a national television audience the Martin Luther King-vs.-Stephenson game (ESPNU, Friday, 6 p.m). Anybody who doesn’t think that’s a big deal is not considering that the “The U”, as ESPN likes to refer to its little brother network, is now being carried in about 50 million homes across America. And a growing portion of those households are actually flipping on the channel.
The game itself would have been colossal whether ESPN brought in its cameras or not. Both teams are undefeated at 6-0, ranked within one spot of each other(7th and 8th) in the state’s highest classification, Class AAAAA, and play in the same region. The schools are located 11.6 miles apart on either side of Interstate 20 east of Atlanta with Panola Road in between. Most of the players played with and against each other in the local recreation and parks leagues, Central DeKalb in particular.
But that’s not the main reason ESPN is bothering to show up Friday. As ESPN’s high school football producer Tom Scofield told me this week, these games are as much about college football and recruiting as they are about high schools.
“What we try to do is either get a real good rivalry, like we have some weeks; or we try to get a high-profile program, like the week we had Hoover against Camden County; or we try and get the best possible prospects,” Scofield said. “A couple of years ago we went up to Jeanett, Penn., to cover Terrell Pryor. We’ve done games with Tim Tebow, A.J. Green, Matt Barkely, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant. You cover these kids, you watch them and then you see them grow into the stars that they are. That’s the best thing about it.”
This week’s game fits all those bills.
“We’re really looking forward to cover [M.L. King running back] Mack Brown, obviously, because he’s real high in our 150 (#16),” Scofield said. “We’re hoping the Florida fans tune in to see him. And we’re hoping Auburn fans and Georgia fans tune in to see what [Stephenson defensive tackle Mike] Thornton’s like. We’ll talk a lot of recruiting and see how good these kids are.”
I will be writing all sorts of different things about this game over the next two days, as will a couple of my colleagues here at the AJC. But in the meantime I figured I’d throw out a few fun facts and figures for your perusing pleasure. Let me know if there are some specific details about the game or broadcast you’re looking for and I’ll try to track them down for you.
Number of former Georgia Tech players on the broadcast team — 1994 quarterback Tom Luginbill (analyst)
Trucks ESPN will bring in to facilitate the broadcast: a production truck, a satellite uplink truck, a generator truck and a lighting truck.
Number of years ESPN has been producing these high school football telecasts.
O’clock p.m., the time set for kickoff Friday.
Cameras used in the telecast. Five manned and three Point of View (POVs or fixed)
Division I prospects at Stephenson High.
Different states from which these games will have originated from, including twice in Georgia. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington.
Really big names that have played in these games: Florida QB Tim Tebow, Georgia WR A.J. Green, Alabama WR Julio Jones, USC RB Joe McKnight, West Virginia RB Noel Divine, Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, USC QB Matt Barkley, Ohio State QB Terrell Pryor, Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant, South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia, Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen, Miami QB Jacory Harris, Miami LB Sean Spence, Miami DT Marcus Fortson and Miami CB Brandon Harris.
High school games ESPN will televise this season.
Jersey number of M.L. King’s star running back Mack Brown, a Florida commitment and the game’s marquee player.
Approximate number of people ESPN will need to make the broadcast happen.
Dollars. The amount of money the DeKalb County will receive from ESPN for letting them televise the game (yes, that’s all)
Approximate households across America that have access to ESPNU