Sidetracked: High School Football In All Its Glory



By: Melissa S. Wollering

Savor these things: a $4.00 ticket, aluminum bleachers, spirited band geeks, 17-year-old cheerleaders, dads manning the field goal net, a scraggly Panther mascot, a grass field surrounded by a blacktop track and lights…lights…Friday Night Lights.  We here at TSB could not go an entire season without paying tribute to one of the greatest amateur sports traditions in America.  Week 9 of high school football (at least in Wisconsin) is on the books and playoffs are upon us! 

 I was lucky enough to get my fill this week as I watched my town’s Oregon Panthers take on Madison Edgewood’s Crusaders. The experience was unparalleled.  And we oh-so-easily forget what it’s like to have our whole world revolve around the big game of the week.

In case the kids are reading, I’m going to keep their true names out of the article.  But these athletes are what dreams are made of. And I’m not just talking about their athletic prowess at the age of 16, 17. For example, “Stacks” redefines outside linebacker and is an intimidation beast. My program has him listed at 285 (highest on the team by 5) but there’s no way. He’s 305, pancakes, waffles and syrup.  When you saw this type of the guy in the hallway, he pressed you up against your locker and gave you a wedgie.  And you liked it.  Because Stacks is a beast. And he’s OUR beast.


Kickers always get a wimpy wrap. But the cheerleaders can’t even get their legs that high and “Baryshnikov” did one heck of a job getting that field goal just before the half to put the Panthers up by 3.  Field goals win high school games so maybe we should appreciate these guys a little more.

In the stands, kids’ spirited and creative wardrobe interpretations always rival those of Dennis Rodman’s. Oregon’s colors are orange and black, and hunting is big in Wisconsin.  So the number of flare orange suspender-held snowpants in the stands could have outfitted the entire Soviet KGB in its prime. One kid found his dad’s leaf camouflage full-length zip suit and imitated a lizard. Another pair of boys donned aqua polos, khakis and croquet sticks, literally stopping to play croquet on each line of scrimmage, advancing along with the football players.

Speaking of advancing, I love when the booth announcer creates his own first down trademark.  “Say it with me now…MOOOOOVE THOSE CHAIIIINNNSSS…”


Meantime, the band and its middle-aged, pear-shaped, unmarried ‘I-never-left-high-school-looking’ director took every opportunity to strike it up. Kids these days don’t want to play Louie, Louie four times in one game. As if straight out of an episode of Glee, kids make Young MC sound good on slide trombone.


Are the high school girls getting hotter these days? Maybelline has been upgraded to MAC and some of the girls spend more on their heels than I used to spend on 6 months of lunch money.


Their moms are totally into the gentrifying of Milf-dom, too.  Milfdom is the unspoken but fully-organized movement to create hotter moms. Self-preservation, you could say.  They’ve taken a kingdom like Wicker Park and gentrified it to resemble Lincoln Park.  If the daughters are hot, the moms feel further self-inclined to preserve.  It’s like putting money into a historic neighborhood. The architecture’s all there; these women just have to upgrade the paint and sand the porch. Oh snap.

Back on the field, there’s a great mix of mundane running plays and electric pass plays where some of these wide receivers show off their track & field crossathletic training. Did you notice every time ANY semi-long pass goes up into the air, the entire grandstrand stands up? Oh wait, it’s filled with helicopter parents. 

It’s casual; this generation loves its helicopter parents.  We were lucky if our parents showed up to the last game of the season. If Mom and Dad haven’t assumed their usual positions by the singing of the National Anthem, Stacks and Baryshnikov (mostly Baryshnikov) reach for their inhalers.

The matchup between rival schools is better than anything you’ve got now; better than the interoffice party, better than your 30-something kickball league better than your constant fight with the Mrs.  When GET High (Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau) takes on Black River Falls in the Coulee Conference, it’s war, man. But when you attend GET High, there’s a lot more peace than war, I’d imagine….

It all culminates in State Playoffs.  Here in Wisconsin, the WIAA provides nerds like me online brackets for all seven divisions throughout the state. Print them off, fill them out, make your side bets with other sports nerds. IT’S HEAVEN. Someone updates those brackets each day of each round and suddenly you’ve got an early-November Nerdness that ties you over until you can reach March Madness.

Either way, in this week’s Sidetracked, I encourage you to pay homage to the high school football programs in your area.  As they wrap up their seasons, they remind us what athletics is all about—learning the game, playing hard, playing to win and relishing in the glory. Simple and pure. Head out under some lights of your own.  Take a deep breath of the crisp air.  Smell victory.  For all the big victories in professional sports, high school athletics still take the cake.

Thank you for reading our new column Sidetracked, where we branch out to bring you the best in non-mainstream Midwestern sports talent and off-the-beaten-path discussion topics. Remember, you read it here first at The


  1. Paul Schmidt says

    Yup…same thing that we do here in Illinois. They actually have a televised selection show.

  2. I own the HSFB Playoff brackets

  3. paulmbanks says

    Where’s the link to the IHSA brackets?? Did Stagg make it?

Speak Your Mind