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Gallagher column: South won the game and the front page

Here’s a little lesson in Journalism 101 as it pertains to Friday night prep football.
People ask me how I decide which team goes where in each Saturday paper. Used to be, we were asked if we were covering a certain game. Now, they want to know about story placement.
Well, you can plan whatever you want before the games begin but it’s the games themselves that decide who gets top billing.
Take this past week, for instance.
Friday nights are always exciting even when I’m sitting in the office laying out the paper instead of sitting in a press box covering a game. My people call after every score, I talk to radio people about scores and I talk to people on the phone wanting to know scores.
And most importantly, I decide which team will be on the front page and which one will be on the back page, which we lovingly refer to as our “color back-front page.”
This week was a first. Instead of the usual two appearances, we had photographers at three games involving Rowan County teams: Salisbury, Carson and South Rowan.
So I start thinking ó which can be a pretty scary thing.

When the night begins, I figure Salisbury will be perfect for front-page action. The Hornets are going to Thomasville for a first-place showdown in the Central Carolina Conference.
A first-place showdown? That’s a no-brainer, right?
Carson is No. 2 in my thought process. The Cougars are favored to win their game with West Iredell and clinch the first winning regular season in the four-year history of the school.
And then, there is South, the scoring machine that is taking on lowly Statesville. This will be a blowout and it will have less intrigue and less drama. They are third on the list of importance. Therefore the Raiders will be at the bottom of the “color back-front” under Carson.

Now remember, that is the thought process before the 7:30 kickoffs.
By 10 p.m., the thought process has changed. Salisbury has lost. The Hornets are not going to be on the front page. I like winning teams on the front.
Carson does clinch its winning season and my new thought process is to put Mark Woody’s team on the front.
Then, the score from Landis is called in by reporter Steve Huffman.
South Rowan 76, Statesville 22.
What? 76 points?
Yep, Huffman assures me. 76-22.

Now, the thought process changes again.
Do I keep a team that scored 76 points and set a modern Rowan County record at the bottom of the “color back-front?”
No way.
So the South Rowan 76ers go from the bottom of the back page to the top of the front.
Carson keeps its prominent position with enough room to get that big, beautiful orange photo of Carson seniors Zack Grkman and Jenson Harden leaping and bumping.
And the Hornets? Bottom of the “color back-front.”
So there you have it. The Raiders went from No. 3 to No. 1 in the thought process. And Salisbury went from No. 1 to No. 3.
And I really had nothing to do with it. South Rowan and Salisbury decided everything for me.

Here’s something a sports editor can get away with.
The front page photo of South’s Brandon Ledbetter scoring after recovering a fumble also showcases No. 60 raising his arms along with the official. I love it. This kid and his parents will be very happy when they see the paper, I tell the guys.
Just one problem. There isn’t a No. 60 on the roster.
Oops.
Wayne Hinshaw’s photo is too good not to get No. 60’s name in. I vow not to go home and climb in bed until I get it. Which obviously means I will not let South coach Jason Rollins rest either.
So at 1:38 a.m. ó that’s right, 1:38 a.m. ó I have no problem putting in a call to our good friend.
Rollins answers of course, saying the player in question is Skylar Stamey, who changed to No. 60 from his normal No. 44.
Now, think about that for a minute. Can you imagine the editor of this paper calling someone about an ID at 1:38 in the morning? No. But a sports editor knows coaches are still wide awake at 1:38 a.m. on a Friday night. It’s safe to say it takes a little longer to wind down from the emotion of a 76-point performance than sitting in on a town board meeting.

One thing about Friday night football. I know that in seven days, there’s always another one coming.
So who, you’re wondering already, will be on the front page this Saturday?
I’m thinking. I’m thinking.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.

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