Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Friday Night Football Week 8: Central vs. Midland High

Wow, the regular season of the high school football schedule is moving along at a pretty fast clip. Week 8 has come and gone and for my game this week I headed west to Midland for Central's game against Midland High at Grande Communications Stadium. If you've never had the opportunity to see a game at this stadium you're missing out. And from a photographer's point of view, it's one of the best venues in West Texas.

Central was coming off a lightning-delayed, last-second goal line stand victory against Abilene from the week before, so they were 1-0 in District 3-6A play heading into the game. Midland was also coming in with a 1-0 record in district so the winner of this game would find themselves in the drivers seat at 2-0. I've covered a few central games this year already and they are very fun to watch. Central is also one of the easier teams to cover photographically because they spread the ball out all over the field. Most of the high school games we cover generally consist of players running the ball through the middle of the field. Central utilizes a pass scheme that can keep a photographer on their toes.

It was a very competitive game from the start. Remember I told you that Central likes to air the ball out? Central actually threw the ball more in the first half than ran it due to Midland's defensive size on the line. Midland would be the first to put points on the board with just under eight minutes remaining in the first quarter. Central added a pair of touchdowns in the last minute of the first quarter with Braden Hucks passing to Will Gridstaff and Landon Sawyer putting the Bobcats up 14-7. It looked as if the Bobcats were carrying all the momentum and were going to run away with the game early.

But in the second quarter, the Bobcat offensive machine fell stagnant and wasn't much of a factor. The defense also seemed to be a little overwhelmed and allowed Midland to score two touchdowns that put the Bobcats down 21-14 at the half. That had me scratching my head a little as I made the walk back to the press box to edit and transmit my photos back to the office. Little did I know that Central was going to have their best quarter of the game while I was off the field.

So I'm sitting up in the press box as the third quarter begins frantically captioning and sending photos back to the office when Central's offense came to life. Quarterback Baden Hucks hit Monroe Lacy on a 12-yard screen pass for the equalizing score just two minutes into the quarter. The Central defense held Midland to a three-and-out and got the ball back in their own territory. The Bobcats then went on a nine-play, 65-yard drive highlighted by a throwback pass from Landon Sawyer to Braden Hucks who was brought down at the 1-yard marker. On the next play Khalil Antoine ran the ball in to give Central a 28-21 lead. I sat there helpless watching all of this happening in front of me, frantically typing captions so I could get back down to the field. Each photographer covering a Friday night game is required to send back several options to the office, both action and feature photos, so we can fill our eight-page football section on deadline. If we didn't publish that section I could have sent back three or four photos and been done with it, but our readers really love the section so we try our hardest to do it up right.

The Central special teams even got in on the action that night. Central was forced to punt in the third quarter and as the ball bounced around in a group of players the ball was touched by a Midland player and the Bobcats fell on it giving the drive new life. Braden Hucks hit Kaczarick Ware on a 10-yard pass who ran the ball in for another Central touchdown. Central now lead 35-21 and I was finally done with sending photos back to the office. I quickly gathered up my gear and ran back down to the field to cover the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for me, Central's scoring onslaught ended. Fortunately for Central, they were en route to their second District 3-6A win of the season. Braden Hucks finished the night with 268 yards passing and four touchdowns. He added 116 yards rushing to lead the team. Receiver Landon Sawyer also had a good night with seven catches for 97 yards. As for me, having missed the three touchdowns in the third quarter, I still think I cam away with some decent frames. Central plays an early game next week so I should be able to shoot the entire game without interruption.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

A few weeks back, I took a break from covering high school football to make the 17-hour drive to Georgia to see a car race I've only heard about but never actually seen... the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. As you probably already know, if you have been following this blog over the years, I go to the Indianapolis 500 every year with my father-in-law so I get to hear stories about the other races that he and his racing friends go to throughout the year. The Petit Le Mans is one of those races and they talk about it with such high regard that I committed myself to seeing it at least once in my lifetime. This would be the year.

Now, making the 17-hour trip to Georgia is no easy feat, especially since I was making the drive by myself. Usually when I make the 20-hour drive to Indy I'm riding with a group of my friends so we can talk to each other to break up the monotony of the open highway. No such luck this time. So, armed with a sack full of bottled water, Red Bull energy drinks, road snacks (provided from my wife Brooke) and a can-do attitude of making the drive in one go, I set out on the open road headed east.

Surprisingly, the trip wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I got to the track around 6:00am which left me about two hours to get some sleep before it opened. The track is beautiful. Undulating hills and nice straightaways make for very unique viewing, and where we set up camp allowed us to view the speeding cars whizzing past just 30 yards away. What I wasn't prepared for, but pleasantly surprised by, was the amount of track activity there is throughout each day of the four-day event. From 8:00am to 7:00pm, Wednesday through Saturday, there is a car on track running a practice lap or participating in one of the support races of the weekend.

This being my time at a race like this, I had to learn to pay extra attention to what was happening on the track. There were several support races that had different types of cars running. I've only ever been to IndyCar races where all the cars are the same except for the paint scheme. In some of these races, there are different cars all together running at the same time including the big race of the weekend, the 10-hour Petit Le Mans.

The week, for me, was a huge success. Minus the torrential downpour that Friday morning, everything went great. I met some new friends who I will probably see again at Indy or at other races, ate like a king and even operated a motorcycle for the very first time. Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, if you don't have a secondary mode of transportation, like a golf cart, ATV or small motorbike, you're going to have a hard time getting around the track. Like I mentioned before, this track isn't flat so trying to walk around to get a different view will be difficult. But it's those hills that really makes this track unique.

Finally, Saturday was the day of the big race and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. It was 60-degrees with a cool breeze under a cloudless sky as the green flag dropped for the 2014 Petit Le Mans. Watching a 10-hour race was a new experience for me. I think I tried to hard at first to concentrate on who was in the lead, who was making a move through the field and who was having a hard time getting a handle on their car. I finally just decided to enjoy watching the cars go around this beautiful track and spending time with friends. The cool thing about this race is that it ends after the sun has gone down. Watching the cars fly by you with their lights on is quite a spectacle. All in all, it was a great time and one that I hope to experience again in the future.

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 Friday Night Football Week 7: Christoval vs. McCamey

So after taking a week off from covering high school football (I'll have a post about what I was doing last weekend in a little while) I'm back on the field, camera in hand. This week I headed out to Christoval, about 20 miles south of town for the Cougars' game against McCamey. I had not shot a Christoval game yet this year, so I was excited about going to a new school this week. But to be honest, my concern wasn't whether or not I was going to have a good shooting night, but on the actual weather itself. Some major storms were brewing to the north and I had all of my photographers assigned to games north of San Angelo. Clearly, there were going to be problems getting photos back to the office.

I was alone covering the Christoval game because our reporters were off covering other games in the area for print. I hate having photographers just sitting around the office not doing anything, myself included, on football night. It was my turn on desk duty for the night, but that doesn't mean I can't get out there and shoot at least a half of a game to put up a photo gallery. Because I was the only one there, I would would be tweeting scores as they happened from the field. I have found that Twitter has become one of the more popular sources our readers find out about their teams. Our sports reporters are some of the best in the region and Carlos Silva Jr., our area beat reporter, was named as one of the top 15 tweeters in the state on Dave Campbell's Texas Football website! Way to go Carlos!

As the game between Christoval and McCamey got underway, it was a balmy 80-degrees and sticky as all get out. But I kept a close eye on the weather radar on my phone, I knew that was going to change. I was already getting word that two of our games were on a delay due to lightning, via Twitter of course. Having started their season with a dismal 1-5 record, Christoval came out ready to play their first District 3-2A Division I game of the season. It was good they started district play against McCamey because they were also have a poor season with a record of 2-4.

For the most part, it was a pretty close game for the first half. Christoval scored first with just over 10 minutes left in the first quarter followed up by a McCamey score three minutes later. McCamey missed the point-after-attempt putting them down 7-6. Scores were not posted again until the second quarter when Christoval sacked the McCamey quarterback in the end zone for a safety putting the Cougars up 9-6 and then scoring another touchdown with about eight minutes left in the half going up 16-6. The two teams traded touchdowns again late in the second quarter with the score 22-14 in favor of Christoval at the half. This is when I had to leave the field and head back to the office to determine what kind of damage the severe weather was going to have on our deadline for the night.

I listened to the rest of the game on the radio posting scores as they happened from my desk. The night turned out to be a good one for Christoval who was leading 43-28 before the game was put on a lightning delay with 0:50 left to play. Eventually the game was finalized, handing Christoval the district win. Since I've touted the benefits of Twitter and its impact on the way we cover Friday night football, to end this post I thought would include the Twitter handles of our sports reporters and photographers if you're interested in following us. They are:

Carlos Silva Jr. - area reporter - @cmsilvajr
Quinton Martinez - Central High School reporter - @qmartinez
Charles Bryce - Lake View High School reporter - @CBryceST
Paul Harris - Angelo State University reporter - @PaulHarrisSAST
Patrick Dove - chief photographer - @DovePhotog
Andrew Mitchell - photographer - @AmitchLphotog
Michelle Gaitan - reporter/photographer - @shellegaitan
Jennifer Rios - reporter/photographer - @Jennifer_Rios
Justin Zamudio - reporter/photographer - @Justin_Zamudio
Monique Ching - reporter/photographer - @Monique_SAST