For many of us, Friday night high school football starts at kickoff. And why not, we sit around all week waiting for the big game before arriving at the stadium to the sounds of the bands, the cheering fans and instantly feel the rush of football fever. In an instant our football season has begun... for the players it starts much earlier.
Long before they run onto that field, the players have been hard at work before the school year began with two-a-days, weights, conditioning all with the same goal in mind -- winning.
Last season I was introduced to South Carolina high school football and became a fan. Who wouldn't be a fan of high school football? High school football is football at its purist. Every kid in a pop warner jersey dreams of playing for their high school team. Working hard through middle school, they finally earn the right to represent their friends, classmates and family on the field. These football players play for the love of the game, before the money-making machine of college and professional football can soil the game for them.
Instead of focusing on one particular team, I followed Goose Creek and Summerville as they prepared for their match up. Each team dedicates many hours of hard work and sweat during the week to put themselves in the best possible position to win on Friday night. These pictures only offer a small glimpse of what happens before the first kickoff.
Once, I watched as a film crew who were documenting a team decided to take part in practice to get a better understanding of what the players endure. Not halfway through the the conditioning, they all headed to the sideline. None of them survived the first part of practice and most of them threw up before falling to the ground in exhaustion.
That was enough evidence for me to never question the intensity of the game of football... including practice.
After conditioning, the real work begins. On both sides of the ball, coaches bark out plays and scrutinize every player as they line up. After each play is run, praise is given to those who followed directions. Pushups or some other kind of extra work await those who blew their assignment.
All the long hours of practice and conditioning, film watching and weight room training has led to this. The years of dreaming and working hard in hopes of getting to this moment have paid off. The lights of Friday night shine brightly again on a new season of high school football.
On this particular Friday, players from Summerville and Goose Creek stretch and warm up on either side of the field. Each team runs some last-minute drills as game time approaches.
By 7:30 p.m., a crowd of 7,500 has gathered, the national anthem has been played and the coin has been tossed, only one thing left to do -- play football!
I do like other sports like soccer and tennis but there is something about football that gets the heart racing just a bit more. Nothing beats some hard hitting smash mouth football. Or the way the heart stops and a lump forms in the stomach as the quarterback unleashes a bomb of a pass. Everybody watches -- some hope for a completion while others pray for an interception but every eye in the stadium is focused on that ball.
On this particular night, Goose Creek started the game with a perfect drive, quickly putting seven points on the board. Summerville was not able to put together a scoring drive until the half was almost over.
The second half proved to be much different as each team traded scoring drives.
But, as every fan of football knows, it is the defense that wins games and that proved to be true as Summerville began to stifle the Goose Creek offense. A strong defense and a couple of scoring drives later and Summerville takes the lead.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Summerville players cheered from the sidelines. As the game ended the players met at the 50-yard line to congratulate each other before Summerville met to pray and celebrate their victory.
What started off as a marque lowcountry match up lived up to the billing as fans on both sides of the ball were treated to a great game. While only one can be victorious, both played hard and will go back to the film room, the weights and the practice field to prepare for the next week.
Many of these players will not pursue football in college, most of them will never play on an NFL team but they all will remember the times they spent together under the lights of Friday night.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.