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Football Sports Photography

Fayetteville Football Senior Night

Fayetteville Football Senior Night Game was last night at Fayetteville High School. The Pirates hosted the Summers County Bobcats. It will be my last night shooting high school football for 2017. Rain was in the forecast. It was unusually warm. I dressed for cooler weather and was surprised at how warm it was well after the sun had set and rain was approaching.

I spent my Friday daylight hours kayaking the river, collecting photographs of the colorful leaves in the New River Gorge. Add on a football Friday Night and you’ve got a great photography day.

If Fayetteville doesn’t make the playoffs this year, it will likely be the last time these seniors ever suit up for a football game. I still remember being in the locker room my senior year and listening to our coach tell us that we need to recognize the importance of that moment.

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Fayetteville High School quarterback, Tristan Coots plows through the Summers County defense.

You don’t think about that kind of thing until you’re older. Those memories get more and more valuable because they become further away. The stresses in life at that time, the things I was worried about, I don’t even remember. If I was upset with somebody, I don’t know now, but I do know that I’ll never get to be in that moment ever again and the truth is, we don’t really know how special an occasion is at that time.

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This Fayetteville defender will probably remember this sack for the rest of his life

It is entirely possible that I may never photograph a high school football game ever again. Hopefully not, but we never really know what the future holds. That might be one of the reasons why I’m a photographer. A picture lets us capture a moment in time that we will never see again. The styles of the clothes, the hair, the weather on that day, they all play a part in our memories and have a strong effect on our nostalgia.

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The Summers County ball carrier is brought down by a host of Fayetteville Pirates.

Fayetteville’s head coach, Coach Moneypenny, approached me during the game. He says “You take 9000 pictures at every one of our games and I haven’t seen a single one.”

I laughed and said “Yeah, I wish I could take more.” I didn’t have the heart to sound patronizing to the head coach by saying “The best ones are in the newspaper and the rest of them are on the Register-Herald website.” Not cool.

Coach asks “You still live on the corner of Maple and Sarah?”

“How do you know where I live?” I didn’t even think he knew me at all.

“I’ve been tracking you for years.”

“Uh oh.” I semi-joked. Not sure what that means.

This town is even smaller than I thought.

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Fayetteville High School head coach: David Moneypenny
Categories
Football Sports Photography

Oak Hill homecoming

Last night was homecoming for Oak Hill. You gotta love it. As I walked into the stadium and across the football field, the floats were lined up on the track, on display for all the fans and the community that wasn’t able to see them in the parade.

There’s something about the fall that brings that sense of nostalgia. The warm sun and the cool shade. The crisp, Autumn evenings. The scent of the trees as they loose their chlorophyl and begin to change color. The earth is more pungent. One thing I like about shooting football games in Fayette County, West Virginia, is that they still play football on natural grass. There’s nothing like the smell of the grass and the dirt below it this time of year.

The band marches onto the field and makes a hallway for the players to charge through on their way out on to the gridiron. Gridiron. What a great word. It sounds just as tough as football itself. When I was in New Zealand, the Kiwis all called American Football Gridiron, because, well for some odd reason they call soccer, football. Weird.

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Oak Hill band members make the tunnel for the players to run through.

Football season makes me think of my coach, Coach Podlasiak. Plaz for short. Coach Plaz was awesome. That man had a greater effect on me than just football. Coaches tend to do that. They’re that adult, outside the family, who helps you learn stuff and apply discipline, yet, there’s a factor of friendship and respect that is unique to that relationship. Coach Plaz was also my track coach. Track was my other favorite sport. I was a pole vaulter. From my youth, growing up next to Capitol University, I used to watch the collegiate pole vaulters and I knew one day that I was going to do that.

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Coach Blankenship instructs a player. This coach will have a huge effect on this player’s life.

These days there aren’t as many pole vaulters as there once was. My own alma matter, Bexley High School, doesn’t even have pole vault. Neither does Oak Hill. It’s sad. The remains of a pole vaulting program are still on the field of Oak Hill. That’s a disgrace. We used to haul our pole vault pits in and out of the shed every day because we didn’t have a cover to leave them out overnight. It made us stronger and better vaulters.

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The remains of a pole vault program that no longer exists.

Back to the football game. I’m not really a sports reporter and I have to leave at halftime to get these pictures to the Beckley Register-Herald before 10PM. Unfortunately, it appeared like Princeton was going to run away with more than the ball. They were up 21-7 at the half.

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Oak Hill Red Devils, Vincent Lopez and Khalil Gray, put a stop to Princeton’s Devon Sibley.

Princeton didn’t just dominate the game, they dominated the stands. Their band was every bit as good as Bexley High School’s band, and we have a GOOD band. A band that’s a college-level marching band type band. Princeton’s band was that good too. They were playing Green Day’s “On Holiday!” I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Cracks me up because when I was in the high school band, we played songs from my mom and dad’s generation. Oh goodness.

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Ta’than Gray of Oak Hill pushes forward for a few more yards.

There is only one grand stand at Oak Hill, another cool thing about local, small-time football. When Princeton scored, it was every bit as loud as when Oak Hill scored. Between the cheerleaders, dance team and drill team, Princeton must have had 50 high school girls cheering on their team and doing coordinated dance routines while the band played. It was almost as if Oak Hill surrendered the “Home Team” advantage.

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Princeton defenders tackle Oak Hill’s Ta’than Gray.
Categories
Football Sports Photography

Oak Hill Football hosts Mount View

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Oak Hill hosted Mount View for the third week of High School football. It was a warm evening compared to last Friday’s chilly temperatures from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. It’s weird that a hurricane coming from Texas can bring cooler temperatures up North but it did.

Oak Hill has a very impressive band and drill team plus cheer leaders and majorettes. In a county of small towns and small schools, it’s interesting to see the size of the football teams and bands and drill teams and cheerleaders fluctuate in size, strength, and ability.

Another interesting observation about West Virginia football is how far the teams will travel. Mount View traveled an hour and a half drive to get here. They had a large fan contingent too. I was impressed with how many fans made the drive.

One other thing about small school West Virginia football is that there oftentimes isn’t enough bleacher space for both sides of the field. So the away team’s fans will sit on the far end of the home team’s bleachers. It makes for an interesting sound of cheering for either team.

It’s a bummer these pictures have to be in to the Register-Herald by 10 pm. I wish I could have stayed for the whole game. This was a really good game. It was back and forth in the lead for the first half. Oak Hill came out strong with a touchdown, but then Mount View answered with two. Then Oak Hill scored. Then Mount View scored a touchdown. Mount View doesn’t have a field goal kicker so they went for two and got it both times. Oak Hill answered with a safety to tie it up at the half.

I’d say the energy of the fans rooting for their teams has got to be the best part about high school football. It’s really got a special feel to it. These are people’s kids and their friends and their friends’ kids and people they all grew up with. It’s neighborhoods of friends and neighbors and people they’ve seen around town their whole life. It’s bigger than just the game of football.

 

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Football Sports Photography Uncategorized

Fayetteville Beats Valley

The Valley Greyhounds traveled upstream to play the Fayetteville Pirates. One of my favorite things about photographing football on Friday nights is that I once again get to feel that pre-game excitement. It’s game time. All of my practice time is going into effect and this is when it all goes down.

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Fayetteville Quarterback, Tristian Coots, leads the Pirates on to the field. Chad Foreman for the Register-Herald.

Being assigned a Fayetteville game is a home game for me. I live 10 minutes down the street from the football field. I am going to know some of the fans in the crowd and maybe a few of my friends’ kids are students. It’s really exciting and the only thing better would be if I got to photograph my Alma Matter, the Bexley High School Lions.

There are only 23 players on Fayetteville’s team. I was talking with someone before the game who said that consolidation of schools is inevitable. It’s a hot topic of discussion around here. People who grew up here are loyal to the school where they learned. But numbers are shrinking year after year and there’s not enough money to keep them all open. There may come a day when these small-school rivalries don’t exist. Players may be driving an hour to play a Charleston high school like George Washington or even a school up in Morgantown.

I show up an hour before the game to get some ambiance shots. They like those at the newspaper because they really round out the whole high school football experience. Things like band pictures, cheerleaders doing their thing, majorettes, fans in the crowd. It’s all about the total experience.

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Jordan Scarborough leads the Fayetteville High School band on to the field.

It had rained all day Friday as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey made their way through the area. I was looking forward to some muddy, sloppy pictures but we haven’t had that much rain recently and the ground soaked it all up.

 

 

 

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Valley Greyhounds defender attempts to bring down Jordan Dempsey with a diving tackle.
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Valley Greyhounds running back charges over the Fayetteville defense.

Unfortunately, I can’t stay for the whole game. I have to leave at halftime in order to get all of my pictures to the paper before 10 pm. The first half was a pretty good match. It was a low-scoring, defensive game with a few breakout plays. Fayetteville led 8 to 6 when the teams left the field at halftime. They held off the Greyhounds for a final score of 22 to 14.

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Quick Football Photography Selfie
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Fayetteville head coach, David Moneypenney, congratulates John-Daniel Franklin after he recovers a fumble in the first half.
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A Valley Greyhound pops Jordan Dempsey up off the ground.

GO PIRATES!

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The Fayetteville Fanatics cheer on their team.
Categories
Football Sports Photography

Photography Blog Kickoff

It’s that time of year again. The evenings are a little bit cooler, the days aren’t quite as hot. The school busses are running. Kids are in school. It’s a nostalgic time of year. A fresh start. Everyone’s ok with hitting the books because they’ve had a nice break.

It’s also time for football. Football means a lot of different things to different people. For me, it represents a growing up, a coming of age. Experiencing strength and a competitive spirit as a young man. The feeling of a desire to annihilate your opponent. It’s been there since the dawn of humankind. Football also makes me think of my dad. He loved football. It was something that brought us together, even though I didn’t like it when he coached me. I just wanted him to watch me play and tell me good job. He just wanted me to be the best I could be.

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It’s an honor to have my picture chosen to be on the front page of the Sports section of the Beckley Register-Herald.

There’s school spirit and a uniting of community. There’s a special feeling that comes from seeing the school parking lot full of cars, lined up to get in and get a good seat before kickoff. The high school kids, hanging out with all of their friends. The young kids tossing footballs back and forth in the grassy areas behind the grandstands.

The smell of popcorn in the air. The play-by-play announcer’s voice over the loudspeakers. The Dolby surround sound effect of a group of referees all blowing their whistles at the same time.

The smell of grass this time of year. I’m very thankful that most of the schools in Fayette County play on natural grass fields. It might be cheaper in the long run to use that new artificial surface, but nothing compares to that true bond with nature that comes from getting your face mask buried in the dirt.

sports football patriots mud
sports football patriots mud

It’s an honor for me to have the privilege of photographing high school football for the Beckley Register-Herald. It’s game time again for me, but in a different sense. My favorite part is feeling the pre-game excitement. People in this area love their high school football and I want to deliver quality images for them. I gotta have my game face on.

Before the play starts, I focus in on the quarterback. I have to read the play, just like I was playing outside linebacker for the Bexley Lions in 1992. If that play turns into a sweep in my direction, if the running back or quarterback are coming around the end, I’m getting a little rush of adrenaline. It’s almost as if a hole opened up in front of me in the line and I know, I get to make the tackle.

sports football patriots dash
sports football patriots dash

I may not get to crash into that running back, but if I get a good shot of that young man who just did, I’m excited. I’m almost as jacked up as if I just made the tackle myself! Well, maybe not. No, definitely not, but at this age, it’s the best I can get and I’ll take it.

I’m excited to start blogging again. There’s a lot more I could say about football and blogging and photography, but hey, it’s only the first quarter!

sports football patriots
sports football patriots