It is jamboree weekend — a dress rehearsal for some, a first opportunity for others and most definitely a chance for high school football fans to get their first under-the-lights looks at friends and foes.
The Best of Preps jamboree is a two-night affair at Finley Stadium, the first of five quarters tonight beginning at 7:30 and the six-quarter session Saturday starting at 7. The eight-quarter Sequatchie Valley jamboree runs tonight at Marion County, beginning at 8 EDT.
East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood likes his team being able to play at Finley, the home for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs. And Signal Mountain coach Bill Price noted the benefit of seeing his players facing live competition under the lights. But mostly the event is for the spectators — a parade of teams, as Price called it.
"It's a dress rehearsal, a chance to get on the field in front of fans," Rhea County's Doug Greene said.
"I don't know if there is a big advantage to playing in the jamboree. It's just a showcase for the fans," Tyner coach Wayne Turner said. "Of course, it gives each team that plays a chance to make a few more dollars, but that's dependent on the weather and the crowds."
The teams split the take after expenses, Turner saying that one year the share was a little more than $900 and another year it reached $1,300. Price of admission this year is $8 per person per night.
Glen Ryan, in his first year as head coach at Walker Valley, took teams to the jamboree when he was head coach at Soddy-Daisy.
"More than anything you get the chance for the team to get out some of the jitters," he said. "It's the first time under the lights in a game-type setting without it counting against you."
With a 20-minute running clock, few teams are going to get more than two offensive series. Signal's first team may get just one of those.
"We'll play the varsity some," Price said. "We'll start off with the varsity, but we're going to turn around and play Saturday [at Ridgeland], and Saturday is a four-quarter scrimmage. We'll probably play a lot of people. You worry about injuries, of losing a kid before the season actually startes. You just have to go out there and play."
Getting on the bus and going to Finley Stadium was quite recently a home-game reality for East Hamilton players, who finally got a home stadium last year.
"It's an opportunity to get the kids on the bus and go through all of those routines, and it's an opportunity for the kids to get into a game-type frame of mind by going against somebody else on a different stage," Gatewood said. "It's a community thing.
"There are teams from all over the area putting on exhibitions. It's good for the communities. The jamboree has always been the [season] kickoff, and everybody gets to come. You get a chance to see some teams you might not normally see."
Gatewood and most other coaches will be in attendance both nights but don't expect to learn much new about other teams.
"Nobody is going to tip their hand on what they're going to do [during the season]," he said. "I think the biggest thing we see is personnel — who's playing where and how big or fast they are."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...