I'll admit it, I'm a football junkie.
I love high school football on Friday night, college football on Saturday and pro football on Sunday and Monday.
Yes, a big part of my job is covering high school football. I don't think I could stay away from high school stadiums on Friday nights in the fall even if I wasn't required to cover games.
There is something magical about the high school game that takes me back to a simpler time. Back when communities flocked to local stadiums to support their team, and kids wanted to attend Home Town High School even when the going was rough and Rival High was on top.
If you lived in a small town, or even a big city, and the stadium was close enough to your home, it wasn't uncommon to walk to the game.
At times, I can close my eyes and drift back to my high school days at old Mercer Smith Stadium in Gulf Breeze. The memories of those days still spark a heightened awareness of all my five senses.
I can see my Dolphin team take the field amid strains of the school fight song. I can feel a rush of the cool breeze blowing off Santa Rosa Sound, just a few hundred yards away. And the scent in the air of burgers and hotdogs on the grill cooking behind the concession stand is so enticing I can almost taste them as I stand on the sidelines with my teammates.
It has been 38 years since I last played the game, but the images of teammates and coaches are as fresh today as they were when those games were played.
I can see my defensive line coach, Mike "Wild Man" Walker bouncing up and down the sidelines as he shouts words of encouragement to Dolphin players on both sides of the ball. And head coach, Jim Smith, is quickly calling plays, using an offensive lineman to relay the message in the huddle.
In my mind, quarterback Ronnie Busbee is throwing another long pass to Mort Deer. Ken Hardy is punishing tacklers as he carries the football from his tailback position and coming up with big hits on ball carriers from his spot at linebacker on defense.
Most sports writers I know prefer watching a game from the press box, but I want to be close to the action on the sidelines. I want to hear the plays that a coach calls; to see the raw emotion on players’ faces.
I love hearing Matt Brunson coach up the Baker Gators. And, from what I've seen, it will be equally enjoyable watching Crestview coach Tim Hatten motivate the Bulldogs.
Yes, I am a football junkie — a high school football junkie, who was first hooked on the game so long ago.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.