Football Game Will Be Nationally Televised, Hanford Dixon Will Help Call
Cavs' Jeff Phelps will also call action
There is a hint of fall in the air, the days are shorter and the night air is cool. And although the calender still says summer, tonight marks the return of fall's favorite pastime, as the Avon Lake High School football team travels to cross town rival Avon to kick off the 2011 football season.
While there is no love lost between the two schools, making the game even more momentous is that former Cleveland Brown Hanford Dixon and Cavs sideline reporter Jeff Phelps will be calling the action on Fox Sports nationwide.
Originally chosen as the game of the week, Fox Sports Ohio General Manager Henry Ford explains the strong match up between the two schools caught the Networks attention.
"The game of the week on Fox Sports is being reprized," Ford said. "There has been a national game of the week for sometime, and this weeks match up was a really strong one for us. There has been additional considerations taken because of the game to set it up for a national audience, it meant getting out there, filming what we can, and we feel good about being picked as an early game."
Ford says his crew has put a lot of effort into this game, with the production staff learning new technologies and is not only excited it was selected to be nationally televised, but also in the fact it is a chance to showcase community living in Northeast Ohio.
Both the telecast along with it being a border war, has Avon Athletic Director Eric Frombach expecting a record crowd at the gate.
"All of a sudden the guy at Fox Sports said it was going to be broadcast nationally, and its a really cool thing," Frombach said. "It's a really good thing for the community and the students and people are really excited about it, so we are expected the most people we have ever had in our stadium in the history of our school."
Frombach expects the game to be standing room only and has said the school has worked with the fire department to have a plan for parking and the traffic that is expected.
"We've never had this many people before, so it will be interesting," he said. "People keep on asking me how this happened, and I said I don't really know how, but it is something the kids will be talking about the rest of their lives. The important thing about it, has become an important rivalry and everyone has embraced that."
As for the game itself, last year in the renewal of a rivalry that dates to 1939, the Eagles won hands down 21-3.
That sparked a run which ended with a 10-1 slate. Avon returns most of that team, has and since Mike Elder took the helm, have had nothing but success.
They too will have a first year quarterback, but Justin O’Rourke already has a number of times behind center for the Eagles and had nearly 1,000 yards passing in 2010.
Avon also have a highly sought after Division I prospect in Ross Douglas, who will line up in the tailback slot for Avon.
"It's pretty cool, we are getting to play our opening game, its high school football which that it itself I feel is the greatest game on earth," Elder said. "Then to throw in the fact it is Avon Lake our border rivalry and the fact it is being televised its pretty neat. But I told our kids, this is Avon Lake, and the bottom line is I don't have to tell you anything else. If we were playing in the parking lot against them with three people there is would be pretty exciting, but with the added flavor of being nationally televised, its awesome and will be a lot of fun. This is what high school football is all about."
This year Shoremen have a new quarterback in Chris Jedlicka but return Dontez Smith to the backfield after running for more than 800 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games last year. They are strong once again in the trenches with Mac Wightman leading the way.
While the Shoremen always find a way to retool each year, How they handle the pressure of playing in front of a nationally televised audience under the lights is another thing, although longtime coach Dave Dlugosz is not worried.
"It's kind of like the old Hoosiers thing, go out on the court, the court is the same size, the basket is the same height, do what you have to do on the football field and let all the other things take care of itself," Dlugosz said. "That's for the fans and for the community our job is what happens between the white lines."
Both Avon and Avon Lake are coming off playoff appearances, and the Shoremen under the guidance of Dlugosz have been one of the most successful programs in the state of Ohio.
Elder has not had a losing season since he took the helm for the Eagles, and the rivalry stands at 16-12 in favor of Avon Lake.