South Panola Game on ESPN

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank ‘Gatorade guy’ for bringing you SP vs. Apopka

By Billy Davis

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Tonight’s televised South Panola game is like “Twelve Days of Christmas” for Tiger football:

37 ESPN staffers,

Seven TV cameras,

one marketing firm,

and a Blue Darter

in Tiger Coun-try.

And it all started with a guy from Gatorade.

Tonight’s match-up began as a sideline conversation when a representative for Gatorade was watching South Panola players use his merchandise, recalled South Panola High principal Dr. Gearl Loden.

Loden said the middleman deserving credit is Paragon Marketing Group, an Illinois-based agency that specializes in sports and entertainment. Paragon’s clients include both Gatorade and ESPN, and with that partnership and South Panola’s national exposure, tonight’s game was born.

This year ESPN will televise a total of 18 games in 16 states as part of its ESPNU Old Spice High School Showcase. The televised South Panola-Apopka game is wedged between a Louisiana-Arkansas game last week and a Tennessee-Alabama game set for next Friday.

Local Tiger fans can view the national telecast via Cable One Digital (Channel 301), DirecTV Channel 609 (Sports Package), or Dish Network Channel 148. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.

ESPNU is dedicated to covering college sports but has aired the High School Showcase since 2005.

ESPN’s plans for televising the game are well detailed, said Keith Moore, director of building and grounds for the South Panola School District.

“The schedule is so tight it shows when they take their lunch break,” said Moore, who has been cooperating with ESPN staffers for two weeks. 

Moore said he was told 37 ESPN employees will work together to televise the game, operating seven cameras and audio.

ESPN staffers will operate from the old press box, located on the west side of Robert Dunlap Stadium, he said.

ESPN will use a rented Musco semi-truck to shine 90,000 watts of light onto the field, using computers to adjust the lighting for the television cameras.

“That’s as much wattage as two of our stadium lights,” Moore said.

Loden and high school staffers are preparing the stadium for a swell of football fans.

Citing ticket sales and telephone inquiries, Loden likened tonight’s game to the Tigers’ rivalry with Olive Branch. A total of 846 tickets had been snatched up by Wednesday – just two days of sales.

Loden said football fans who have a season ticket or a pre-paid ticket can bypass the ticket line via a new gate located near the ticket booth. Ticket holders can also use two more entrances, located near the south and north concession stands, to enter the stadium.

Overflow for home seating has been roped off on the visitors’ side.

Proceeds from the $10 tickets will be split among South Panola, Apopka and Paragon after expenses, Loden said.

On the ESPNU Web site, South Panola is ranked No. 8 in the Southeast Region Top 20. Apopka is ranked No. 15.

 “I think I’ve been to 1,000 Web sites to read about this game,” said Moore, who offered his view of the game.

“Apopka is fast, and I saw footage of their running back. He’s quick,” Moore said. “But our line is bigger. I guess we’ll see what happens.”