There's going to be a big crowd tonight at Womack Field. Resuming a longtime rivalry, Statesboro plays Thomson with each team's undefeated record on the line.
"It's a good test for us and I'm confident we'll be ready," Blue Devils coach Steve Pennington said Thursday.
Tonight's game also is a big one for us at the Statesboro Herald and statesboroherald.com. The Thomson matchup is Statesboro High's fourth game of the season and also the fourth game we will broadcast live on our Web site. We've been kind of quiet about our first three live broadcasts as we work to improve our production and delivery of the game over the Internet. But no more.
I urge every Statesboro fan to go out to Womack Field tonight. A huge home crowd would be a big help to the Blue Devils as they take on Thomson. But if you can't get there in person, go to statesboroherald.com, click on the link to the broadcast and watch the game live. It will be the next best thing to being there.
Our pregame show begins at 7:15 with play-by-play announcer Don Wilson, color analyst Phil Boyum and Statesboro Herald sports editor Chad Bishop. You'll even get a preview of the game from Coach Pennington himself. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and main cameraman Matt Bankhead along with sideline cameraman Eddie Ledbetter will stay focused on the action.
I'm proud to say we are the only newspaper Web site in Georgia that broadcasts a high school football game live every Friday night. In fact, Georgia Public Broadcasting's GPB.org is the only other Web site in Georgia that broadcasts a live weekly high school game.
Let me go back a little bit and give you a brief history of how we came to offer live football games. Back in June, our Web development team at Morris Technology told us we could use one of our video cameras and a laptop to "live stream" an event over the statesboroherald.com Web site.
Phil Boyum, who also is a reporter at the Herald, suggested we organize candidate forums for three local political races and broadcast (stream) each live on statesboroherald.com. With the help of Ogeechee Technical College, we organized the forums, and on Wednesday, July 2, the hour-long forum between Congressman John Barrow and challenger Regina Thomas was broadcast live.
That broadcast and the two other candidate forums all went well, technically speaking. So, we thought, what could we do next? High school football seemed a natural. With the popularity of football in the south, we believed people would watch it. But how could we pull it off? A live high school football game in an open-air stadium with football players constantly in motion is a lot different than candidates standing still on stage inside an auditorium.
The first thing we needed to do was make sure officials at Statesboro, Southeast Bulloch and Portal high schools all wanted us to live stream the games. Long story short – they did. In fact, they were very enthusiastic about the possibility. The next step was to get high speed Internet access in each of the press boxes. Statesboro worked with Frontier Communications and Bulloch Telephone graciously agreed to install for free high speed connections in both the Southeast Bulloch and Portal press boxes.
Internet access now secured, Phil took the lead in ensuring we had the proper equipment to pull off a live telecast. Again, long story short – we got all the equipment we needed, tested it and decided we were ready. We hoped! So, on Friday, Aug. 29, we went out to Womack Field, set up our equipment and at 7:15 p.m. flipped on the switch. We were live!
With a number of glitches to be sure, we broadcast live Statesboro High's season-opening victory over Josey. In the past two weeks we went to Southeast Bulloch for the game against Toombs County and last week we were in Portal for the Johnson County game.
Portal coach Justin Chester was particularly pumped about the live broadcast. "I think it makes us pretty big time," he said. "I think it's great."
I think it's great, too. And we look to get better with each broadcast. Tonight, look for more graphic elements on your screen, including scores from other games and screen photos of key Statesboro players after big plays. Also, look for improved use of our sideline camera during the game.
So, if you can't be at the game, you don't have to miss it. Go to statesboroherald.com tonight at 7:15 and watch Friday Night Football in Bulloch County — Thomson vs. Statesboro.