The last two seasons I have gotten into the routine of posting a pregame picks column on Friday afternoon and a post-game scores story on Friday nights during football season. I call these “Football Friday” (what you are currently reading this moment) and “Football Friday Night.”
The Football Friday Night article is built around the game that I attend and cover in person, which last week was a crucial region showdown between Clay Central and Mortimer Jordan.
When I posted a link to that story on Facebook last Friday, someone posted a lengthy comment passionately calling into question why the Randolph Leader would deign to cover sports outside of Randolph County.
Knowing that a person's involvement in Facebook arguments is often directly related to that person's temporary loss of basic human intelligence (I say this because in the past I have allowed myself to get sucked into the fray of a Facebook argument and came out of it feeling much, much dumber), I replied to this person's comment by inviting him to call me so that we could have a civil adult discussion on the matter.
He never called.
But in his defense, he did take a admirable step that few others take when they have an issue with the paper. He spoke up. And he did so on Facebook, so his name was on it. It was not a cowardly, anonymous, drive-by criticism, so there is merit in his method.
Furthermore, I believe his question is germane, and I would guess that he's not the only one who is curious about the answer. Why do we cover Clay Central and Ranburne, when our purview is Randolph County and the name on our paper is the Randolph Leader?
The simple answer is this: As a newspaper, you go where the readers are.
The name on our paper may indicate the home base of the paper's readership, but that name does not set a barrier around where our paper goes or who and what it covers. The Anniston Star does not draw a line around the city limits of Anniston because that would be a disservice to all of its readers throughout east central Alabama that look to that paper for their local news. The New York Times does not limit itself to covering the goings-on in New York City because its global audience demands the global content that the paper provides.
The Randolph Leader is not the New York Times (or even the Anniston Star), but as a news provider in our community it is our job to serve our readers, wherever those readers may be. The vast majority of them do reside in Randolph County. But many reside in neighboring counties, and while some folks here may not care about Clay Central or Ranburne football, our information tells us that many of our readers both inside and outside of the county do.
And we have not added those two schools at the expense of coverage of the county schools. We simply added them to the fold and continued to cover the four home-county schools as we always have.
Moreover there is a logical and direct connection between Randolph County and those two schools. Central coach Danny Horn spent some of his formative coaching years under Ron Watters at RCHS. Ranburne coach Stephen Bailey got his start in coaching under Larry Strain at Woodland. Plus, Central and Ranburne are natural rivals to schools within the county, and the teams meet on the field every year, often multiple times.
The question was posed as part of the initial criticism of our coverage, if we're adding coverage of schools outside of the county, then why not extend that coverage to Birmingham or Mobile or even the Dallas Cowboys? And my answer to that is the same as above: We will go where the readers want us to go.
If a sudden massive swell of Dallas Cowboys fans emerged in the county and demanded that we cover that team, then guess what? We'd probably do it. That's why we include items about college football or the Atlanta Braves or the Baltimore Ravens (and Handley alum Bradley Bozeman) from time to time. Our readers have responded to that type of content and shown an interest in it.
We at the Leader are very proud to call Randolph County our home. We are also not short-sighted enough to believe that our readership stops at the county line.
On to this week's picks.
Central at St. Clair County
Central is coming off of back-to-back one score losses at home, so a road trip to play 0-6 St. Clair County may be just what the doctor ordered. Also, due to the unusual setup of Central's schedule this will be the final road game of the regular season for the Vols. They'll come home happy, and hopefully ready for another big-time second-half run.
Central 42, St. Clair County 7
West End at Ranburne
No game is meaningless, but unless West End brings some sort of ACL-tear virus with it and spreads it among Ranburne's players, this game will have absolutely no bearing on Ranburne's season. The Bulldogs are locked into either a first or second place finish in the region, with next week's game against Ohatchee the determinant on where they fall. Ranburne will win easily tonight, probably get its fourth shutout of the season and stay unbeaten for next week's all-important region championship game against Ohatchee.
Ranburne 35, West End 0
Woodland at Cleveland
This won't be Woodland's last stand, but if the Bobcats are serious about getting in the playoffs tonight's game is as close to a must-win as they come. Woodland should be fresh and rested coming off of its off week, and I think they'll come out with a playoff-like effort. But I just don't see them having the horses to keep up with Cleveland.
Cleveland 34, Woodland 21
RCHS at Walter Wellborn
RCHS needs a win in this game to keep its hopes of a first-round playoff game alive. Wellborn has yet to find much resistance on its path to a 7-0 start, but they'll get their toughest test of the season tonight against that Randolph County defensive front. In its only other true test this season RCHS played one of the worst halves of football you will ever see in the second half of their loss to Piedmont. I'm guessing there were some lessons learned in that game, and RCHS will figure out a way to finish against Wellborn.
RCHS 28, Wellborn 20
Lincoln at Handley
So far this season I have attended five high school football games. In those games the team that I was there to cover has lost four times. (The only exception – Woodland's win over Gaston) My presence is absolutely meaningless to the outcome, but I point that out to say that I'm ready to see the good guys win one for a change. I'm sure Handley feels the same way. The Tigers have lost the only two games in which they've truly been tested this season. Handley needs a win against a tough opponent to realize that the talent that they have can become something meaningful, and they'll get the opportunity to do that tonight against a very strong Lincoln team. Something tells me this might the one where Handley puts it all together.
Handley 35, Lincoln 27
Alabama at Texas A&M
Any time Alabama loses during the regular season it's a major shock. That would especially be the case in my mind this week. Alabama has had two weeks to prepare for A&M, and the Aggies just haven't looked very strong against good competition (Clemson and Auburn). Maybe this one stays close for a while, but A&M is not going to slow down this Bama offense, and the Aggies sure aren't going to win a shootout with the Tide. (Don't worry, Bama fans, you can still whine this week. You're on CBS.)
Alabama 48, Texas A&M 27
South Carolina at Georgia
I swear. Kirby Smart and the Georgia administration need to whine at...er, petition the league office to get them to quit giving Georgia all these noon games in the middle of October (even though it's the TV networks that decide game times. Details, schmetails.) It's a joke. This is a league game between two division rivals and the league insists on punishing Georgia with this time slot that should be reserved for peons like Kentucky and Ole Miss. How do you expect Georgia to recruit 5-stars at noon? Give me a break.
Georgia 45, South Carolina 17