McCaleb: We’ve got prep football covered

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What would life be like without football?

“It would be dark. And lonely. And boring,” Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick writes in our prep football preview special section, which will publish in Wednesday’s editions.

Thankfully, life without prep football ends Friday night, when all of our area high school teams play their first games of the 2013 regular season (with the exception of Alden-Hebron, which kicks off Saturday.)

As usual, the Northwest Herald and our prep sports website, McHenryCountySports.com, have the season covered.

The 36-page prep preview section offers a sneak peek at all 19 area football teams we cover. We profile five key players to watch, provide rosters, schedules and so much more.

This edition also explores the serious issue of head injuries related to football, and how local coaches and players are adapting to calls for a safer sport. From the pro level all the way down to youth leagues, there’s been a heightened awareness about repeated head trauma and the impact football collisions have on players’ long-term mental health. It’s a necessary discussion, and changes to the game were inevitable.

Some pundits have argued that lawsuits surrounding these injuries eventually will kill the sport as we know it.

I don’t believe that. Football is as much a part of American life as turkey on Thanksgiving and presents on Christmas.

It will endure, and we’ll be there to cover every aspect of it.

At McHenryCountySports.com, prep reporter/videographer Les Johnson visited all 19 training camps and put together video vignettes of each of the teams, complete with player and coach interviews. You can watch them online now and through the beginning of the season.

Here’s what else area football fans have to look forward to:

• Friday Night Live returns. Johnson will be joined by Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf each Friday night calling our game of the week, webcast live at McHenryCountySports.com. The webcast team will be inside Crystal Lake South’s new press box this week for the Gators’ opener against Marian Central. The webcast begins about 7 p.m.

• Be sure to check out Fastest Four Minutes beginning Saturday mornings at McHenryCountySports.com. We’ll have highlights from four local games, and provide stats and analysis from around the county.

• New this year will be an ongoing, behind-the-scenes look at Huntley High School’s football program. Head coach John Hart agreed to give sportswriter Jeff Arnold insider access so we can explore all that goes into preparing for Friday nights.

• Our readers can pick local games each week against Styf, Johnson, Arnold and senior sportswriter Joe Stevenson in our Prep Football Pickem contest. Log on to McHenryCountySports.com, scroll down a little and look for the link on the right to register and begin playing.

We’re looking forward to an exciting season of prep football. We hope you are, too.

• • •

Help needed: Pioneer Center for Human Services is looking for a church partner to house the area’s homeless Monday nights during the fall and winter.

Because McHenry County does not have a full-time, overnight homeless shelter, Pioneer and its homeless services division, PADS, partners with area churches from Oct. 1 through April 30 each year to provide food and shelter to the area’s homeless from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Each of seven churches takes one night a week. Pioneer is covered Tuesdays through Sundays, but it needs help Mondays.

Church partners have volunteers start about 5 p.m. on their respective day to start preparing the night’s meal. Overnight guests arrive about 7 p.m. Pioneer provides the transportation.

Partner churches provide at least one head volunteer to be a site manager, and then other volunteers to staff through the night. The church also provides a hot dinner, breakfast and a sack lunch for all individuals staying at the site.

Pioneer provides case manager support to the churches.

The church site ideally would be able to sleep 70 men, women and children. If that is too large for a new church too handle, Pioneer has a church that is able to host about 30 women and children on Monday nights, so the new church could host 40 men.

Any area church that is interested, please call Pioneer’s chief development officer, Christin Kruse, at 815-759-7114.

We, and the area’s homeless, greatly appreciate all who help.

• Dan McCaleb of Crystal Lake is group editor of Shaw Media’s suburban publications, which include the Northwest Herald. He also is a member of the Pioneer Center’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.

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