HS Football Championship – The Road to Syracuse. (starts now…) 7•Nov.•09

It sometimes starts a week earlier for me. The continual over-thinking on how I’d cover a game like this past Saturday’s Section 9 Class AA Championship matchup between undefeated Monroe-Woodbury and Warwick High Schools. It was a repeat of their game a few weeks ago at Monroe-Woodbury HS, when both teams were 6-0. This time the game was to be played in Middletown’s new million dollar-plus Faller Field, complete with a pro synthetic turf playing surface (similar to West Point’s Michie Stadium), the best stadium lighting of any school at this level I’ve ever seen, and a real live working press box with blazing internet connectivity – which proved to come in handy at halftime. By week’s end I was excited and hoping again for the the opportunity to install my customary remote camera atop the stadium press box (at right), as this was also my first game shooting in the new stadium. This is again an image (top) that can be used as a file picture for any future stories that crop up from the sports guys as well. No matter how routine or insignificant it all may seem to the casual observer, there’s still something quite special about arriving a few hours early for a game of this magnitude. Shoot, I still look to get to little league & pee-wee games earlier if scheduling allows. Particularly if I’m going to be pushing right up on deadline for a championship game at night, and am hauling in four camera bodies. Count ’em – four! I guess installing the overhead remote 2 hours or so before game time doesn’t really count, as I typically only mount a remote for this specific view of the pre-game coin toss with all the players on the field, halftime show, etc. (Come to think of it, when’s the last time you’ve seen a photo published from the half-time show of a high school game? Better yet, have I ever fired the remote to make an image from this angle of a halftime show…?) Remember what I mentioned about fast internet connectivity in the press box.

Once the remote was securely installed, I was ready to put on my “game face” and begin the night’s work: There were a few disruptions to the expected routine of the game. Kickoff time was pushed back a half-hour to 7:30PM as there was a fire alarm activation down at Monroe-Woodbury HS and their star quarterback, Dan Scalo actually forgot his helmet in the commotion in leaving the school for the busride up to Middletown. Other media types and myself included were silently wondering if they’d have to start the game with another kid at QB if the helmet didn’t arrive by driver or courier, if you will. It was actually odd to see this kid warming up sans headgear, knowing that he’s the type of player who’s been running over defenders like a cross between an Earl Campbell and Larry Csonka freight train from my old days as a player / fan in the ’70’s. What a back story that would’ve been if they didn’t get the hard hat to him on time. We already sensed that a lot of the MW players were out of sync by arriving late to the ballpark. Made sure to shoot frames of QB Scalo during warmups without the helmet just in case. Note to self: these are good file images of the star QB for stories later in the week if needed.

As the coin toss at midfield was choreographed, I was able to make three separate views of the Monroe players in line with their hands clasped together: the #1 image from the roof top stadium remote, and two quick subsequent images were I sort of crept up behind the line of players and photographed them with two different cameras, one wide (at right) and a detail image of any two players’ gloved hands, which to me is a decent picture (below) that can be used to illustrate teamwork, the MW team itself, their season, or even an athletic equipment advert, as sort of a “b-roll” image of you will.

By the time the game finally got going, I could officially start worrying about my first 10:30PM deadline, and I remember thinking that I’d have to really hunker down on this one, as these were two excellent teams, capable of making big plays at anytime, literally anywhere on the field for that matter. Both QB’s could throw it and throw it deep & with ‘touch’, and I already knew they could both run. The Warwick QB, Rian White scored early on sweet run off tackle where he actually dove over a MW defensive back (left) – and I was on him clean from the back of the end zone only a few yards away. I remember reminding myself to ‘lay on the button’ when I saw how this play was developing right in front of me. I didn’t know how good the series of images was until I started chimping in the end zone and let the cable TV guys have a peek at the back of the camera too. “That’s one,” I thought quietly to myself while trotting out of the end zone and to the sidelines to get ready for the kickoff / and return. Soon after, MW back Trevor Officer (right) plowed over a Warwick defensive back from the two yard line or so, and I knew I had two “gamers” already before halftime. Now as the clock ran down, I made the decision to run up through the stands to the press box and that fast, reliable internet connection. I figured I’d give up some of the third quarter shooting time, to be able to move these two images to the paper way ahead of the 10:30PM deadline. I was back on the field by the middle of the third quarter and was fortunate enough to make a few more game telling big play images, including touchdown passes & catches (left) from both QB’s and good runs from their star players as well. By sending those two early images at halftime, I was able to stay on the field to make the post game trophy presentation to the coach and players’ jubilation. Those images were sent after the second edit and one eventually made the back page as well.

All in all it was an exceptionally good night. The weather was good, saw a lot of familiar faces, and as mentioned earlier – the light was nearly as good as a pro or college stadium for a night game. The hot chocolate was decent too.
Click HERE to see a photo gallery on the paper’s website on my take of the game. Again, thanks for reading – see you at the next big game. -cg.

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