There’s likely thousands of high school football games taking place across the country this weekend.
Only 13, though, are on national television, including the much-anticipated 11 a.m. Sunday matchup between Wheaton Warrenville South and Glenbard West on ESPN2.
Officials from ESPN and a Niles-based sports marketing agency, which coordinates high school sports broadcasts for the network, decided the local rivalry deserved a national audience.
Some factors in their decision were obvious. Both teams are expected to be among the best in the state.
“Top level competition, no matter the age category, is always compelling to people,” said Rashid Ghazi, a partner at Paragon Marketing Group, which first contracted with ESPN in 2002 to air a high school game featuring LeBron James.
The Tigers from WW South are the two-time defending Class 7A state champions, and are looking to extend a 26-game winning streak. It’s no surprise then that ESPN also aired last season’s WW South season opener against Maine South.
The Glenbard West Hilltoppers boast several highly recruited players and returning starters. They’re also looking for revenge, after being eliminated by the Tigers in their last two postseason appearances, including the 2009 state championship game.
But what also makes the game compelling, Ghazi says, is the environment created by a local rivalry such as WW South and Glenbard West.
“The passion of high school football is the local rivalry games,” he said. “The community there knows how to support football. They pack the stands … It’s not only about showing athletes and the game, but also the band, cheerleaders and fans.”
For WW South’s participation in the telecast, the school will be paid $1,000 by Paragon, according to a contract.
And it’ll seem like any other big time nationally-televised game: both teams will be provided with sports drinks, bars, shakes, coolers, squeeze bottles and bench towels.
Crews also will put up signage around the field for national and local sponsors of the event.
Meg Aronowitz, the coordinating producer of high school football for ESPN, said the broadcast will involve a 30-person crew and six cameras. They began setting up Saturday.
The announcers for Sunday’ broadcast are Beth Moen, doing play-by-play, and analyst Charles Arbuckle, who played football for UCLA and the Indianapolis Colts.