Many people would agree that their years in high school were some of the best years of their lives – particularly those individuals who were members of a sports team or participated in other activities such as the marching band or debate team.
In many cases, team members become lifelong friends. Team reunions are held from time to time as teammates return to remember the relationships, which ultimately mean much, much more than the outcome of games or events they had participating in high school activities. Quite often, reunions for sports teams are staged during the highlight of each sports season during the state playoffs.
And as the calendar turns to November, there is nothing like the excitement of high school football playoffs in cities and communities across Alabama and throughout the nation every Friday night.
While each team will be trying to advance to the state championship, the outcome of the games is only a part of the experience for those individuals in attendance.
Why? Because the people in the stands at high school football playoffs are moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, neighbors down the street, fellow students, and longtime residents of the community. People in the bleachers know the players on the field. Win or lose, their support and love is always there.
There is no tradition in sports with the history of high school football. There are 30 rivalry games (60 high schools) that started before 1900 and continue today, the longest of which is Connecticut’s New London High School vs. Norwich Free Academy, which have been playing annually since 1875.
In Alabama, the first game confirmed was in 1892 – when the Alabama School for the Deaf played the Anniston Military Institute and tied 0-0. By the time the AHSAA formed in 1921, more than 100 high schools in Alabama were playing football. Guntersville and Albertville recently completed their 105th meeting, dating back to 1914. Albertville’s Aggies won 24-21 in a series that now stands at 52-47-6 in Guntersville’s favor. Clarke County also has two ongoing series that have reached 104 games – county rivals Jackson and Thomasville.
In Michigan, Battle Creek Central and Kalamazoo Central have been playing since 1896. In Massachusetts, the Wellesley-Needham Heights rivalry dates to 1882. And in Colorado, Pueblo Central and Pueblo Centennial have been matched since 1892.
Although there are more options for entertainment on a Friday night than ever before, there is still nothing to match high school football playoffs in the fall. With all the people attending games of the 14,247 high schools that play football, expect more than 10 million fans each Friday night – easily the No. 1 fan base in the country.
As you attend high school football playoff games this year in Alabama, remember that the players, coaches and game officials deserve your utmost support, encouragement and respect. While advancing in the playoffs is the desire of each team, the ultimate objective of high school sports and activities is to have fun and enjoy these special years.
We urge you to continue to support the high school teams in your community!
Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations
Steve Savarese is the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association
The Alabama High School Athletic Association, founded in 1921, is a private agency organized by its member schools to control and promote their athletic programs. The purpose of the AHSAA is to regulate, coordinate and promote the interscholastic athletic programs among its member schools, which include public, private and parochial institutions.