Posted: 5:31 pm Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Pahokee to play one of 19 ESPN HS games in ’08 

By Jason Lieser

Pahokee will play a pair of out-of-state opponents this season, including a televised game at Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) High on Oct. 3.

The game has been in the works for several weeks, but ESPN made the official announcement Wednesday. The network plans to carry the Friday night game live on ESPNU.

“It’s something a lot of people can watch, so it enables scouts and recruiters to see more than just the highlights we send them,” Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said.

Thompson preferred to see the game land on a more accessible channel, like ESPN or ESPN2, but said he still was happy about the exposure. Additionally, he said, the team will not pay travel expenses for the game and will receive a $2,500 donation to its athletic department. Thompson said those promises were made by the game’s organizer — a “middle man,” in his words — so he is unsure who is footing the bill.

Pahokee opens the season with an exhibition game against Olive Branch (Miss.) High on Aug. 30, as part of the Miami Sports Kick-Off Classic at Traz Powell Stadium, presented by Nike.

I’m not surprised by the network’s splurge of high school football coverage, just a little curious why they haven’t obtained the rights to televise any state championship games in Florida, Texas or California. An ESPN spokesperson said the company presently has no plans for that type of expansion.

Thompson praised ESPN’s efforts to boost the exposure of high school football because he believes it increases the scholarship chances of participating players, but said Pahokee has bigger priorities than beating Byrnes.

“Our main concerns are the Muck Bowl and the state championship games,” he said.

Glades Central, which lost 27-15 at Byrnes in an ESPN game in 2006, had hoped to play a road game at Abilene (Texas) High as its August exhibition, but coach Jessie Hester said those talks are dead and he is making alternate plans.

Five other Florida schools will play ESPN games this season. Here is the full schedule:

Aug. 23, Cathedral (Ind.) vs. Carmel (Ind.), 12 p.m., ESPN
Aug. 29, Mays (Ga.) vs. Carver (Ga.), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Aug. 31, Rockhurst (Mo.) vs. Blue Springs So. (Mo.), 12 p.m., ESPN

Sept. 1, St. Thomas (Fla.) vs. Elder (Ohio), 12 p.m., ESPN
Sept. 3, Mater Dei (Calif.) vs. Carson (Calif.), 9 p.m., ESPN2
Sept. 5, Armwood (Fla.) vs. Plant (Fla.), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Sept. 11, Rider (Texas) vs. Sulphur Springs (Texas), 9 p.m., ESPN2
Sept. 12, Bastrop (La.) vs. Dollarway (Ark.), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Sept. 19, Apopka (Fla.) vs. South Panola (Miss.) 8 p.m., ESPNU
Sept. 26, Brentwood Acad. (Tenn.) vs. Prattville (Ala.), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Sept. 27, Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) vs. De La Salle (Calif.), 10:30 p.m., ESPNU

Oct. 2, DeMatha (Md.) vs. Our Lady of Good Counsel (Md.), 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Oct. 3, Pahokee (Fla.) vs. Byrnes (S.C.), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Oct. 4, Cypress Bay (Fla.) vs. Katy (Texas), TBD, ESPNU
Oct. 10, Lowndes (Ga.) vs. Valdosta (Ga.), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Oct. 16, Cypress Falls (Texas) vs. Cypress Ridge (Texas), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Oct. 17, St. Joseph’s Prep (Penn.) vs. Cardinal O’Hara (Penn.), 6 p.m., ESPNU
Oct. 31, Godby (Fla.) vs. Madison County (Fla.), 8 p.m., ESPNU

Nov. 7, Mountain Pointe (Ariz.) vs. Desert Vista (Ariz.), 10:30 p.m., ESPNU