Joe Cagle

I’ve been around, and enjoyed being around, high school football for as long as I can remember.

I loved it when I was a child because of the larger than life perception the players gave off even though they were just teenagers. As a teenager at Arab High School, I loved it because my closest friends played and those who didn’t were supportive both home and away. I’ve got pictures of me in body paint to prove it.

Now, as an adult and someone who owes a large portion of my career to high school football, I love it because it is the very best that the sport has to offer. Not as far as talent goes, but because of how pure the game is when it’s played at the high school level.

A few weeks back I covered the Guntersville at Arab game, which is always fun for me. I always love the opportunity to cover the Wildcats but getting to go back to my alma mater is always a treat. At one point early in the game the Guntersville, ball boys had a bit of a miscommunication, which caused some stress on the sideline.

It brought me back to a time when I was just an 11-year old kid. From the 4th to the 6th grade, I helped out as ball boy for the Arab Knights football team. Keith Garner, now the Brindlee head coach, was the man in charge on the sidelines. He was always very nice to me and the other ball boys, but we knew we had to be on top of our game. I was a given an immediate reminder of what happens when you slip up as a ball boy last Thursday night.

Becoming a ball boy was almost too good to be true at the young age of 10. Arab’s old football stadium, “The Pit,” was just across the highway from where I grew up. Every home football game at around 5:30 p.m. you could begin to the hear the legendary voice of Hall of Famer Archie Anderson coming over the PA system. The band would begin warming up around the same time, and you could just feel it in the air – especially as the weather shifted to chilly instead of humid.

Every football season was something I counted down the days too, more so than Christmas or my birthday. Simply put, football has always been special to me. I served three seasons as a ball boy for the Knights and only had one run in, literally, with a player.

When I was in the fifth grade, Jason Guger was a junior at AHS. At that age, someone as big as Guger was almost mythical. You know the saying, “Keep your head on a swivel?” I did not do that one particular night and on my way back to the sideline after running a ball to the official I was blindsided by Guger. It was a clean hit with no targeting involved. Somehow, I shook off the hit and remained in the game.

I look back on nights like that and can’t help but smile thinking of all the memories I made as a child and teenager strictly because of the Arab football games. Nowadays, I cover the Knights' rival, the Guntersville Wildcats, each and every week. The past several years doing so has created even more Friday night football memories for me.

So, while there’s no doubt this season is a bit odd, I’m still thrilled to be a part of a high school football season once again. It seems I’ve spent most of my Friday nights in the fall on the sidelines and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a pleasure each and every night to watch young players compete on the field in a game we all love.

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