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Monday, May 2, 2016

Don't tread on Friday nights

Thursday, September 5, 2002

As we constantly find ourselves in the midst of ever-changing times, with each new day bringing more changes and complications to an already complicated world, it is comforting to know that some things still work together so well that we think of them as inseparable.

Peanut butter and jelly, the Spring River and a canoe, Mick Jaggar and Keith Richards.

It's really hard to think of one without the other.

The same thing can be said for high school football and Friday nights. Fridays in the fall have a distinctive look and feel that no other day of the week shares.

From proud parents going to work wearing buttons with the pictures of their favorite players, to students decked out in jerseys and jeans getting out of class early for a pep really, Fridays are different in a good way.

This ritual of football and Fridays has attained an almost spiritual level in the South, where it's almost certain the art of tailgating was born.

Want to catch a glimpse of a young player destined to play college or maybe even pro football? Just load up the family and friends and head out to any one of countless high school football fields in our state and chances are you'll see just the dedication and desire it takes to reach the next level being displayed by the 22 young men on the field.

Some will in fact go on to greater glories on the gridiron, some will not.

You'll not be alone when it comes to looking for the next big thing. College coaches and scouts number among those filling the stands at high school football games throughout the South. They know where the talent is.

Just scan the roster of any major college football program and notice how many of the skill-position players went to high school in the South. A large percentage. It just seems we were born to play football in this part of the world.

It's a little bit strange then, to think that something other than high school football could vie for our attention on fall Friday nights. This is now true, however, as the NCAA has recently given its approval for collegiate games to be played on Friday nights. Why Friday nights?

College football, once a fixture on Saturday afternoons, has expanded to Thursdays and even a few select Sundays in recent years. This is fine, as it is hard to find fault with extra football.

But Friday nights?

Friday nights should be reserved exclusively for the spotlight to shine on our local heroes.

The NCAA has also slid in a couple of Monday night games this year, but you can be sure they will not go head-to-head with any important games on the NFL's Monday Night Football.

Speaking of the NFL, professional football is all that has kept the NCAA from invading Sundays with more matchups of their own.

The NFL wants to keep Sunday viewers to themselves, which the NCAA seems to be content with.

College football should defer to high school football as well. Schedule double headers for Thursdays if needed, but just leave Fridays alone. If we keep letting the powers that be tear down and rearrange all our traditions, one day there will be nothing left to enjoy.

What should we do about this? Some positive things have begun to happen already, such as some college coaches declaring they are against playing Friday night games. Whether they lean this way because they can't evaluate high school talent and coach their own teams at the same time, or they believe in the institution of Friday night high school football does not matter.

When the NCAA trots out such compelling matchups as North Carolina State vs. New Mexico, turn off your television set, grab your jacket and some popcorn money and head out to your local high school stadium for the only gridiron action that really matters on Friday night. You never know who you'll find in the stands.

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