A different kind of high school coverage

When I was originally asked to come work with the NFHS Network, it was a no brainer. As a former high school football player, there is nothing I love more than what goes on Friday nights in the fall across the nation. And there is no place better to be on those Friday nights than in the state of Alabama.

Most Friday nights, if I’m not working on a broadcast, or out of town for whatever reason, I’m at the Homewood game. For those who don’t know much about my background, I played for Homewood from 2002-2004. We won the state title in 2002 and 2004, and made it to the semi-finals in 2003. We amassed a 40-4 record, and those were some of the best times of my life when I was on that gridiron. Now that I work with a mix of sports media, digital media, and broadcasting, I like to try and utilize those skills to help continue to grow the thing I love so much.

I like to think I have talents in multiple areas of media. So much so that no matter where I am, and what is going on with me on a Friday night, I can still benefit the greater population who are also interested in high school athletics. I know plenty of people who only want to go to games if they are broadcasting it, or covering it for a publication. If they aren’t assigned to go to a game, they would just prefer to sit home and sit on Twitter re-tweeting other people who are doing the work for them. I don’t like to be that way. I’ll admit, I don’t always go to games on Friday night, but if I don’t go somewhere, I want to work my ass off to make sure that I am still holding up my end of the coverage I’ve done in the past.

After leaving the radio group I worked with a few months ago, I continued to think of ideas that could keep up the great work we had started last year. We had so many good things going, but when they killed the sports station, I didn’t want that to end our coverage. I came up with so many ideas, and many of them ended up falling flat. Whether it be people not coming through, or not having the time or money to complete something, I ran into so many roadblocks. Not to mention that I tried to get this all done in less than a month. It just wasn’t going to happen that quick.

So I decided to take this season as time to develop a plan. I wrote plenty of business plans and layouts for what I wanted to do. While I traveled around to a few different stadiums, and went to a bunch of Homewood games, I kept trying to think of a way that I could continue great coverage. I don’t just want to be forced to sit behind a microphone or a sound board in order to be effective. I have studied and worked too hard in other areas to be rendered useless because someone took the microphone out from in front of me.

And so it hit me. There isn’t a one stop shop for all things high school football in Alabama. There are great sites out there that keep the standings, and the association site is getting much better at updating things quicker thanks to their partnership with C2C Schools. AL.com does good reporting on game stories, but their high school staff is small and they focus more on the long form written word, more so than the scores, stats, and quick and efficient information. All of the resources out there are great ones to have, but it seems like there needs to be more. Not only more, but it needs to be easier to access.

So now what?

So I’ve started to work towards a goal. I hesitate to put this out there so someone else starts to take my ideas, but I’m not going to be selfish like that. I want to help create something grand for high school athletics in the state of Alabama. I don’t have the greatest resources, and I can’t split into 24 people to go cover all of the games this coming week. But I want to do what I can. Technology has evolved to the point where I can set up a base of operations and work from there. I am going to finally start putting my plan into action this weekend in the third round of the playoffs.

Why now? Well, mostly because Homewood is out of the playoffs and we’ve been told we can’t broadcast any playoff games, so that gives me a chance to work on this, but with a smaller field. This week sees 48 teams left in the playoffs between all classifications, so it will be much more manageable for me as a single person.

Screenshot_2013-11-21-19-01-34I’m going to start with a live score script I’ve seen used before, but I’ve taken and modified slightly to fit for high school football. I’ll admit, it’s no ESPN right now, but as updates come rolling in, you can watch the AHSAA Live Scores page and it will update automatically. You don’t even need to refresh it, it will update every 10 seconds with the latest scores. It also works on your mobile phone, and will still update every 10 seconds or so. I know it works on Android (because I’ve tested it there), but should also work on your iPhone and Windows phone as well. You will just need to open your browser on your phone and visit jlunce.me/live to get the scores. I will tweet it out a few times as well throughout the night.

I’m only doing the 8 games in 5A and 6A so that I can test the script. This is all new and I’m still working on it, but hopefully this will work well so I can do all semifinal games next week. If you ever see a problem, or have a score to report that hasn’t been updated yet, feel free to tweet me and I’ll get right on it.

What’s next?

There is a lot that I want to do. I think the live scores will be a good start. You can also view an updated bracket here for 5A and 6A. I will update those immediately following a game’s finish so that you can see who and where your team is playing next week if they won.

I want to eventually start a site dedicated to all of this. I know it’s a little unattractive using my personal site for this. I mostly use this site as a blog to keep my writing up and also as a sandbox for things I like to try out, such as the live score script. It won’t be hard for me to start something up, but if I’m going to do it, I want to make sure I’m doing it right. That’s why I’m starting now for next year. I have a long time to work on these ideas and mold them from something good into something great.

I don’t have a name for it yet (I am really bad with names). I don’t have a design for it yet. But the ideas are all in my head, I just need to get them out there. I hope this is something that people will really utilize once it comes to fruition. I might not be in the booth broadcasting or producing games next year, but you better believe that I am going to be pulling my weight next season when it comes to high school football. I am hoping to try some things out on some of the winter and spring sports as well to maybe help expand into more than football.

It’s going to be a lot of work. If anyone ever has any ideas for stuff you’d like to see from a site/product like this, I am always open to new ideas. I want this to be a great effort to help support high school athletics.

Now it’s time to get to work, and time to enjoy a little football. If you’re home and keeping up with scores on my live score page, you can also check out some great games on the NFHS Network. This week’s games include:

Hoover vs. Florence (6A)
Auburn vs. Carver Montgomery (6A)
Vestavia Hills vs. Bob Jones (6A)
Saraland vs. St. Paul’s (5A)
Muscle Shoals vs. Athens (5A)
Colbert County vs. Saks (3A)
Madison Academy vs. Piedmont (3A)
Luverne vs. Sweet Water (2A)

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Jon Lunceford is a sports media broadcaster and digital professional. Jon is a graduate of the University of Alabama school of journalism, and played football at Birmingham-Southern College. He has also won two AHSAA Football State Championships while at Homewood High School and was a two-time World Cyber Games Team USA representative. He currently hosts Primetime on WJOX 94.5 and runs the high school athletics site JoxPreps.