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High School Football Takes The Chill Off Fall

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Fall is a time for rituals and in thousands of towns across the country, one of the biggest October rituals is high school football. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann sent an audio postcard from the season's very last home game in Saranac Lake, New York.

BRIAN MANN: Chris Covert leans on the fence at the 20-yard line looking out across the striped green field toward the Adirondack Mountains.

Mr. CHRIS COVERT: It's gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky, McKenzie Mountain in the background, some gold trees, red and white uniforms on the field.

MANN: Covert doesn't have a kid on the team, but in this village on Saturday afternoons, this is the place to be - a gathering spot even for people who don't much like football.

(Soundbite of music, "The Star-Spangled Banner")

MANN: Saranac Lake is a middle-class town. People here work as prison guards; they work in hotels that cater to leaf peepers; they keep shops along the single Main Street. Today, they fill the stands in their crimson jackets and ball caps. Some families have followed the Red Storm squad for generations.

Mr. TIM MUNN: The atmosphere here on a Saturday afternoon has been like this since I was a little kid.

MANN: Tim Munn is a middle-aged guy who was a star defensive back on this field in high school. He watches with satisfaction as the Red Storm dominates a rival team from nearby Massena, New York.

Unidentified Man (Announcer): Morgan's pass is complete to Josh Quinn for a 43-yard Red Storm touchdown.

MANN: Munn coaches the JV football squad now and says especially in tough times like these, when jobs are scarce and the economy is sour, a winning season means a lot.

Mr. MUNN: It gives everybody, you know, in the community something to talk about, enjoy, other than the everyday struggles of life. And I think the community has always rallied around the football program. It's just a wonderful thing and, you know, I hope it just continues forever.

TEAM: Again. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

MANN: This is the final home game of the season that has been extraordinary, with the undefeated Red Storm thrashing opponents by a combined score of 266 to eight.

CHEERLEADERS: Let's go Reds.

MANN: But on this day, the numbers on the scoreboard hardly seem to matter to fans like Rick Cassidy, who watches from the sidelines in his lawn chair.

Mr. RICK CASSIDY: You know, it's the camaraderie and getting out on a day like this is just, you know, it's better than golf because you don't get upset.

(Soundbite of whistle)

MANN: This is football, so there are plenty of bodies cracking. The ball spirals against the pale sky. But half the fun of this day is the maples and the birch flaring on the mountainsides, so bright they hurt your eyes. It's the smell of hot dogs roasting and that pep band sound echoing through the village one more time before winter sets in.

For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Saranac Lake, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.