Thursday, September 2, 2010

Football madness: stories from the sidelines

Portal's Nolan Clark lies prone on the field after cramping up on a 
Southeast Bulloch kickoff return.

As a photojournalist, my main job is to tell the stories I cover through photographic images. Sometimes, additionally, the access afforded photographers gives us a chance to make observations and share stories of the non-visual variety. The sidelines at sporting events can provide some unique experiences and perspectives not always accessible to most fans and even sports writers who tend to stick to the press box.

Our first Friday night football game of the 2010 season featured Southeast Bulloch and Portal high schools. Tons of story lines. Two local, cross-county rivals playing each other. Two new head coaches, to name a couple. From a news standpoint, last Friday was a can't-lose situation. On the field, however, somebody had to lose.

In the end, Southeast Bulloch won in convincing fashion, 37-12, snapping a 19-game losing streak in the process. The story in the following day's paper reflected the significance of that feat, as well it should have. They exercised a demon and set a new tone for the future of their program.

But there was another story line that emerged on the sideline which was discussed amongst us in the local news media and was also reflected in my photographs as I edited them later. It's an issue that most every small school struggles with when competing against larger schools. Sometimes football is a game of attrition as much anything else.

Portal's Jordan Cowart, one of the many two-way players for the Panthers, 
walks slowly off the field after a turnover against Southeast Bulloch.

Portal High School head football coach Cherard Freeman.

When the two teams put their best 11 players on the field against each other, there wasn't a great deal of difference in talent – if any. But when you looked at the sidelines, SEB's advantage was evident. The Yellow Jackets dressed out possibly three times as many players as the Panthers. While SEB has its share of two-way players, Portal players almost never came off the field, with practically the same 11 playing defense, offense, and special teams. That takes its toll, especially on the big guys in the trenches. Add in South Georgia heat in August, and that's a lot to overcome. More than once, there were multiple Portal players cramping up on the field between plays.

So what's the point of this post? There's certainly no slight intended towards Southeast Bulloch. They earned their win and I look forward to covering them. I hope the Portal players aren't embarrassed. I expect them to be very competitive against teams in their own region. They have some players who can "ball" and a coach who really likes to teach the game of football.

The point is that sometimes pictures can tell a part of the story that might not make it into the gameday story. And sometimes I like to pass on what I see and hear while working the sidelines.

More to come ...

Portal quarterback Hunter Oglesby led all rushers with 137 yards against
Southeast Bulloch.

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