Lights, cameras and high school football action.
Local television station WMMP will broadcast high school football games live on Thursday nights this fall, beginning with the West Ashley at Bishop England game on Aug. 26. The broadcasts will begin at 7:30 p.m.
WMMP is the local MyNetworkTV television affiliate and broadcasts its digital signal on UHF channel 36. It is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
"This is a huge project that we're all excited about," said Mary Margaret Johnson, the station's general manager. "Charleston has really embraced it. Everyone I've talked to thinks it's great for football in the Lowcountry and great for the high schools. We will spotlight schools, principals and outstanding student-athletes during the broadcasts."
Johnson said the Sinclair Broadcast Group has televised high school games in many of its markets, including Nashville, Las Vegas, Birmingham and San Antonio.
Eight of the 11 Thursday night games in the Lowcountry have been selected. "We're looking for the four best games available for the other nights," Johnson said.
Darren Goldwater will handle play-by-play duties and Nate Ross will be the analyst. Angela Mallen will be the sideline reporter.
Bishop England athletic director Paul Runey said his school might take a hit in ticket sales if fans choose to stay home and watch the game against West Ashley on television.
"But we'll take the chance. It's worth it," he said. "To be the first school, the first game on television in the
Charleston area makes it exciting. We'll see how it goes and take it from there."
The current Thursday night schedule doesn't include any of the biggest rivalry games such as Summerville vs. Fort Dorchester or Stratford vs. Berkeley.
Some Class AAAA coaches said playing on Thursday night would mean juggling contracts and schedules, including junior varsity and B team schedules, and also could mean less money for the host team.
"I didn't give it too much thought," Summerville coach and athletic director John McKissick said. "We have contracts and we need all the gate revenue we can get. Today, when you ask for money, the (school district's) response is 'we don't have any.' "
Ray Stackley, Stratford's football coach and athletic director, shared the same concerns.
"We're in one the worst economic times ever, the school budgets are taking a hit and we can't risk losing potential gate proceeds," he said.
"If you play on Thursday, you have to change your practice routines, change contracts and stuff like that. But the big thing is risking your gate."
In years when both teams had superior seasons, the Summerville-Stratford game drew up to 10,000 fans with the host school reaping a profit of $28,000 to $40,000.
"I'm even concerned about live radio broadcasts," Stackley said. "We've had nights where it rained and had hundreds of people stay home and listen to the game on the radio. Radio is a business. Television is a business. It's gotten to the point that high school sports are a business. Sure, we're here for the kids, but we have an incredible amount of overhead. We can't afford to lose revenue. Somebody will make money on these broadcasts, but it won't be us."
(All games start at 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 26 West Ashley at Bishop England
Sept. 2 Stall at James Island
Sept. 9 TBA
Sept. 16 Hanahan at Cane Bay
Sept. 23 James Island at Ashley Ridge
Sept. 30 Hilton Head at Berkeley
Oct. 7 Baptist Hill at Burke
Oct. 14 TBA
Oct. 21 Laurence Manning at Porter-Gaud
Oct. 28 Stall at North Charleston
Nov. 4 TBA