ESPN crew due Wednesday

Four semi-trucks, 40 employees to cover game

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, Special to the News-Telegram

Sept. 9, 2008 - Let's get the priorities straight - ESPN2 coming to town isn't as big to Hopkins County as discovering that cows give milk. But, for 3 1/2 hours on Thursday night, Sulphur Springs will be in the middle of the Worldwide Leader in Sports' universe. And that's no small thing.

About 40 crew members and four semi-truck trailers will arrive in Sulphur Springs Wednesday morning to prepare for the the Wildcats' game against Wichita Falls Rider at 8 p.m. Thursday. For the next 18 hours after the ESPN crew arrives, the focus will be on preparing equipment for the game and getting a taste of Sulphur Springs' passion for high school football, said Tom Scofield, the network's primary high school game producer.

"We want to capture the essence and importance of football in your town," Scofield said Monday. "In many towns, high school football is more than a game, it's an entire community event, and we want to find out the real importance and passion that people have for the game."

ESPN's senior operations manager Kevin Hendel is scheduled to be in town this afternoon to review set-up details at Gerald Prim Stadium with SSISD's director of plant operations Dale Guest, and ESPN will dispatch a hand-held camera with staffer Aaron Cropper prior to the game to shoot bumper footage that can be used during the telecast, Scofield said.

The preliminary outlook is that ESPN2 will have six cameras for the game - one that is hand-held, two mounted on the press box at about the 30-yard lines, one in each end zone and another one above the press box for an aerial view, said SSISD superintendent Patsy Bolton. The two cameras that will be positioned at the 30-yard lines will require ESPN to build platforms on the press box, and that's what the crew will be doing when they arrive tomorrow.

After the game, it will take about 3 ? hours to dismantle and pack up the equipment.

While ESPN is used to traveling to towns for high school broadcasts - they will do 19 this season alone - Sulphur Springs isn't accustomed to such attention, but has been doing its best to paint the town in blue and gold and make ESPN2 feel welcome. Being the center of attention happens when you have high-profile athletes and exciting teams.

Rider quarterback Shavodrick Beaver has verbally committed to Michigan, wide receive Eric Ward to Oklahoma and running back Jurrell Thompson to TCU. SSHS quarterback Tyrik Rollison hasn't committed, but is being wooed by almost every Big 12 team and some of the more powerful schools in the nation. Senior defensive end Colton Nash, running back Ryan Young and wide receiver Jace Jackson are also Division I prospects, and junior safety Bryant Jackson is ranked as one of the top athletes in the state by several recruiting services.

"We want to give college football fans a chance to see the highly-touted prospects that may be playing for their teams in the next year," Scofield said. "If you're a Michigan fan or a Big 12 fan, you can see some of the players that will be calling your campus home. Each week, we show fans the stars of tomorrow who have committed to some of the bigger schools."

The SSISD is expecting a full house for the game. The stadium will seat about 5,500 with portable stands brought over from the middle school that have been placed on the south end of the home side. Other bleachers were ordered for the visitors' side last spring and were supposed to be here in August. But, the manufacturer pushed back the delivery date to late September, Ms. Bolton said.

Safety is the school district's main concern, so there will be more than 20 uniformed officers at the game and the Sheriff's Posse will be patrolling the parking lot.

Notes: It was incorrectly reported that KSST and Star Country would be be able to broadcast Thursday's game live on radio. Both stations will carry the game live, but Channel 18 is prohibited from rebroadcasting it.It was originally announced that the telecast would be regionally televised, but ESPN2 this week said it would instead be shown nationally.

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