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From the Sidelines: We offer to you “Gridiron ‘08”

The high school football season is finally underway for all region teams Friday night. To commemorate the occasion, The Demopolis Times will release its annual special section, “Gridiron.” The section has undergone a bit of a makeover in an effort to continue improving the product made available to DT readers.

The annual high school football guide is a full-color magazine, complete with rosters, photos, schedules and team-by-team breakdowns of nine area programs.

The publication comes as the result of months of planning and a near herculean effort on the part of a dedicated staff of individuals.

New publisher Jason Cannon and new advertising manager Tiffany Cannon each provided strong insights and fresh ideas while nurturing the efforts of a young staff.

The advertising department practically beat the bushes to give Black Belt businesses the opportunity to be involved in what we believe will be a worthwhile annual release in which many in the area will take pride. Additionally, recently-added composing manager Michelle Bryant showed tremendous vigor as she went far beyond what anyone could have asked of her when she opted to pull an all-nighter to help an exhausted sports editor meet the publication’s deadline.

On the editorial side, Stewart Gwin juggled an air-tight schedule in order to make multiple trips to area schools and pull together the photography for the magazine. His talents and maturity defy his age and his choice to go into medicine. However, if he displays the same dedication to his chosen field as he did to this publication, the world will be a much better place.

I acknowledge all of these people because such a publication would be impossible without their efforts. The magazine will release Friday and whatever accolades and criticisms that may follow will most likely be directed at the person who bared the responsibility of putting it together, me. Nonetheless, as a rookie sports editor, I would have failed miserably at my job had it not been for the patience, flexibility and fervor of these people. So I accept this as my one opportunity to thank them in a public forum.

That brings me to the reason we all worked so hard on “Gridiron ‘08,” the people therein.

Football is of vital importance to this region. It is one of few things that is so entirely unifying.

Last Friday night, in the heat of their contentious mayoral campaigns, both Mike Grayson and Cecil Williamson were in attendance at the Demopolis High School Jamboree. It can be argued that the event provided an ample PR opportunity. However, it seemed the attendance of each candidate was more about a mutual appreciation of Tom Causey’s Demopolis Tiger football team than it was about scavenging a few last-minute votes.

But that love of the game goes well beyond Demopolis. Football is nearly a way of life in Sweet Water, where head coach Stacy Luker has the Bulldogs primed to win their fourth state championship in five years.

That pigskin passion stretches its hand to Linden where Andro Williams is looking to build a program of which his players can be proud. It lingers around Marengo Academy, where Jesse Little’s prestigious career continues to lead a proud program.

That love of football reaches out to Dixons Mills, where Scottie Jones hopes his senior-heavy team will break through in 2008.

It falls on Newbern, where Jonathan Jenkins has a hungry group of Sunshine Tigers believing even the most unthinkable is now possible.

It hangs in the air in Thomaston, where Mose Jones’ name is synonymous with A.L. Johnson football.

It reaches its grasp to Livingston, where 25-year-old Lenoise Richey’s optimism and faith permeates the atmosphere of Cougar football, making players and fans alike believe the 14-game losing streak will soon fall and the 14-year playoff drought will soon follow.

And that adoration for the country’s grandest game certainly makes its presence known at John Essex High School where Fentress Means is laboring to change the culture of Hornet football.

It is because the game and the young men who play it matter so much to the communities at large, that it matters so much to us. It is because of these things that we offer to you “Gridiron ‘08” as a highlight of the schools, teams and athletes that you love.

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