Shannon Fagan|Sports Editor, Cherokee County Herald
CENTRE – Football fans aren’t the only ones who are anxiously counting down the days to another season.
The staff at WEIS radio station in Centre have finalized their high school football broadcasting schedule for the fall, and they’re putting the finishing touches for the fifth year of “The End Zone Show” on Thursday nights to help kick off the football weekend. The WEIS broadcast season begins on Aug. 27 at Cedar Bluff, when the Tigers host longtime rival Collinsville.
“We want to bring a great program to our audience, so those who can’t go to the football stadiums and support their high school teams, at least they can listen,” station manager Jerry Baker said.
Commentators Nolen Sanford and Shane McElwee are set to begin their third season in the broadcast booth together. Sanford will handle play-by-play duties, while McElwee will offer color commentary. Joey Weaver will be producing from the studio.
“We’re honored to have them on board to help us pull this off again,” Baker said. “They are very conscientious about what they do, and they want to do a good job for our listeners. When they’re in the booth describing what’s going on on the field, the people can visually see it on the radio. We think Shane and Nolen do an excellent job with that.”
Both Sanford and McElwee are excited to be calling the action on the headsets again.
“Working with Shane, he knows the history of the teams and he knows the area well. That makes things easier on me,” Sanford said. “It allows me to be in the background, and I can set the stage and let him perform.”
To help get fans prepared for the weekend’s action, “The End Zone Show” will be carried live at 6 p.m. every Thursday at an as-yet-to-be-determined location. Last year, the show was broadcast from Tony’s Steak Barn and Barbeque Place and More in Centre.
The show features insight on the weekend’s local high school football matchups, as well as a look at college football around the Southeastern Conference.
Scheduled to join Sanford and McElwee once again for “The End Zone Show” is Cherokee County Herald sports editor Shannon Fagan and The Post managing editor Scott Wright.
“I just look forward to getting started because I feel like what makes the show work so well is that we’re just four buddies sitting around talking football and making fun of Scott,” McElwee joked.
Sanford said the banter between the foursome is “what makes the show so great.”
“There are a lot of different viewpoints and I think our listeners love to hear the banter,” he said. “We all enjoy doing it together. We all like each other. It’s just a group of friends talking football who happen to be on the radio. For me, it’s the start of the football weekend.”
“The End Zone Show” will be broadcast on location prior to the kickoff of the Cedar Bluff-Collinsville game on Aug. 27. A day later, another longtime rivalry will be hitting the airwaves when Piedmont visits the Cherokee County Warriors.
September’s contests include Cedar Bluff at Spring Garden (Sept. 4), Spring Garden at Gaylesville (Sept. 11), Plainview at Sand Rock (Sept. 18), and Ohatchee at Cherokee County (Sept. 25).
October’s slate of games includes Valley Head at Spring Garden (Oct. 2), Crossville at Cherokee County (Oct. 9), New Hope at Sand Rock (Oct. 16), and Gaylesville at Cedar Bluff (Oct. 23).
The duo will broadcast two games the final weekend of the regular season: Sand Rock at Cedar Bluff (Oct. 29) and Gaylesville at Spring Garden (Oct. 30).
Both broadcasters are anxious to see how the season transpires.
“I’m interested in seeing if Cherokee County can take a step forward with all the young talent that they have,” McElwee said. “Opening up with Piedmont will be a great measuring stick for them. Can Cedar Bluff keep the momentum they built during the playoffs last year? They open with Collinsville, which is almost always a tough game, and then a matchup in their second game with Spring Garden that very well could be for a region championship.
“I’m also interested in seeing Sand Rock with a new coach (Steven Chesnut) for the first time in over 30 years. Do they keep doing what they’ve done, or does Coach Chesnut change some things? Can Gaylesville find their way back to the playoffs after missing last year? Can Spring Garden host another playoff game?”
Sanford is also looking forward to seeing what the season has in store.
“Anytime you see a Collinsville-Cedar Bluff game, it’s played at a high speed. It’s an athletic contest. It gives you a little flash and flair to start the season,” Sanford said.
“I know the Piedmont-Cherokee County games has been lopsided since both teams won their state championships in 2009, but I think with the progression of the young players Cherokee County had last year, I think there’s an opportunity there for them to stop that streak. I’m anxious to see what changes Coach Curry and his staff have made with their playmakers now that they’ve gotten a year older.
“Spring Garden is putting things together. In years past, they might have had to rely on just one player, but it’s not like now. They’re starting to believe as a team. Cedar Bluff has been that way for years. This is a game early in the season that could dictate who the region champion may be. It’s that important early in the year.
“I’m also really excited to see Plainview at Sand Rock. Both teams should have their identity by then. It’s two new coaches, and Sand Rock is always a great football atmosphere.”
Following the high school game broadcasts throughout the season, Baker said plans are to have a scoreboard show immediately afterward.
Baker said the radio station’s efforts always have their listeners in mind.
“We want to say thanks to the fans because we do it all for them,” he said.