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high school football
high school football

Whitehaven vs. Fairley at J.P. Freeman, Memphis, 2012

High school football (and the marching band battles that go with it) are a big part of the culture of Memphis, and there are few rivalries bigger than Whitehaven High School and Fairley High School. Their game this year, played at J. P. Freeman Stadium  because Whitehaven Stadium is being renovated, was a rare Saturday game and it drew a crowd as big as one might expect for a college game.The weather was perfect, the bands were great, and there were no fights. 

Mitchell vs. Manassas @ BTW, Memphis, 2011

Last night was a great night for football, with the weather cool and pleasant, and I headed down to historic Booker T. Washington Stadium for the Mitchell vs. Manassas game. Unfortunately, there was no band battle, because only Manassas brought their band, but Manassas looks as if they may be on the way to rebuilding their band program. We also had to contend with annoying, dive-bombing insects of some sort that would drop out of the sky on us or at least near us. But I still had fun. 

Fairley vs. Hamilton at the Whitehaven Classic, 2011

The second game of the Whitehaven Classic was between Fairley High School and Hamilton High School. Fairley is a rather large school that usually has a band comparable to colleges in size and quality, and this year was no exception. Particularly first-rate is their drumline. Hamilton, on the other hand, is a sad shadow of its former self. For most of my youth, they were the high school band we most wanted to see at a parade or an event. In Christmas parades, they would march down the street a hundred strong, to a hard funk cadence provided by the drummers. Nowadays, they have only one tuba, only one or two bass drummers, one or two snares. Economic realities, crime and drugs have devastated the South Memphis area where the school draws its students from, and open enrollment has made it much easier for students to transfer out of district. It is all very sad to watch.

The end of the third quarter of Fairley and Hamilton was 10 PM, and I didn’t wait around for Whitehaven and Hillcrest.

Westwood vs. Mitchell at Whitehaven 2011

Memphis’ high-school football (and band) season got underway in earnest this weekend, with Saturday’s Whitehaven Classic offering a marathon three high-school games at Whitehaven Stadium. The first game, between Westwood and Mitchell, was delayed somewhat due to the heat, but as the day progressed and temperatures cooled, the crowds increased. Both Westwood and Mitchell have truly tiny bands this year compared to what I recall from the 1980’s and 1990’s. I suppose their enrollments are down as people have relocated to Hickory Hill, Cordova, Southaven and Olive Branch.