High school football is personal.
It's “our kids” against “your kids.”
It's boosters selling hot cocoa on a cold night.
It's families sitting together in the bleachers shouting “way to go, team.”
It's the marching band playing the national anthem, sometimes a bit off-key.
And yes, it's tears shed in the anguish of losing that big game in the state playoffs.
Those of us who live along the Mecklenburg-Union County border, on either side, have the privilege of watching some of the best high school football in the state. So why not spend a few hours on a Friday night screaming until your vocal chords wear out?
Here are highlights of what we can see within a drive of 30 minutes or less.
Independence High in Mint Hill played in the state finals (4AA) last fall and is a seven-time state champion. Butler in Matthews is newer to championship-level winning, but they definitely have arrived, and the team is loaded with talented players.
South Mecklenburg (4A) and Sun Valley (3A) in Union County, both ranked in The Observer's Sweet 16. Both schools also have been mentioned when people talk about conference championships.
Charlotte Catholic, which also played for a state title last season (3AA) and has major college talent, again.
Charlotte Latin defeated Charlotte Christian in the private school state championship last season.
Obviously that's not all the teams close by. There's also a chance to see great drama any Friday night at games involving Providence, Charlotte Country Day and Ardrey Kell in Mecklenburg; Weddington, Marvin Ridge, Parkwood and Porter Ridge in Union. Deeper into Union County is Piedmont, Monroe and Forest Hills.
Drama is the trademark of high school football. Teenagers deal with what they perceive as pressure. Parents get caught up in the emotions of their kids.
The season is beginning to take shape now that summer training is past and the first couple games finished.
Woven into the season will be plenty of surprises that will test your sportsmanship and sense of fair play. At the high school level, winning does matter. When you've worked as hard as the students, and boosters, you're committed to offering your best performance because you want to win.
I know. I played. I loved it.
So take a few hours on a Friday night to support a kid, or a school. You might find it some of the cheapest, most gas-efficient entertainment you experience this fall.
And remember: it's a game.