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Let the football season begin!

Probably the biggest perk to being a community newspaper’s high school sports reporter is that I am literally employed to consume as many athletic events as possible. It’s the primary reason I work in this field. I’m already going to watch and research sporting events in my spare time, so why not make a career of it?

It’s like if someone offered me a job to eat Otter Pops in my underpants while playing video games all day, but until that dream scenario comes around, I guess I’ll settle for sports writer.

The curse of this job is that I rarely get to sit down and watch a full game. With a few exceptions, I’m a one-man show at the Independent. When there are multiple games in one evening, I’ve got to dart from contest to contest to make sure I get pictures from each game while digesting enough of the contests to conduct coherent interviews with the coaches later in the week.

I know. I have it rough, right?

To combat this problem during football season, I write an annual column where I set my travel schedule in advance. My goal is to catch as many football games as possible while making sure that I spread my coverage out as evenly as possible between all the schools in the area. With five high schools in our coverage radius — Woodburn, North Marion, Gervais, Kennedy and St. Paul — this can be a bit tricky.

If I can attend rivalry games, homecoming games, senior nights or other perks, that’s a bonus — but equal coverage is always the primary goal.

Let’s get started!

Week 1 - Aug. 30

Candidates: Woodburn vs. Jefferson, North Marion vs. Regis

Out: Kennedy at Rainier, St. Paul at Camas Valley (Dufur)

Opening night at home for Woodburn and North Marion! This is an easy week to schedule because Kennedy and St. Paul are on the road and Gervais starts a week later.

Week 2 – Sept. 6

Candidates: North Marion vs. Tillamook

Out: Gervais at Heppner, Woodburn at Cleveland, Kennedy at Dayton, St. Paul at Powder Valley

Four teams on the road make this an easy choice to watch the Huskies against the Cheesemakers. Bonus points because it’s a rare regular season game that I’ll get to watch in its entirety.

Week 3 – Sept. 13

Candidates: Woodburn vs. Corvallis, Gervais vs. Chemawa, Kennedy vs. Horizon Christian, St. Paul vs. Lowell

Out: North Marion at Yamhill-Carlton

This is where I have to start making difficult choices. I’ll skip Woodburn because I caught them in Week 1. That leaves a winnable game for Gervais against Chemawa that I want to see and I’m choosing to watch Kennedy over St. Paul to balance out the schedule later in the season.

Week 4 – Sept. 20

Candidates: North Marion vs. Junction City, Gervais vs. Dayton, Kennedy vs. Regis

Out: Woodburn at West Albany, St. Paul at Imbler (Dufur)

It’s Gervais and Kennedy for a second week in a row since I’ll already have two North Marion games under my belt.

Week 5 – Sept. 27

Candidates: Gervais vs. Sheridan, Kennedy vs. Toledo, St. Paul vs. Ione

Out: Woodburn at Lebanon, North Marion at Madras (Culver)

I’m watching Kennedy again, but they have three straight road games after this week, so I’ll miss them for at least a month. My apologies to St. Paul fans for having to wait until Week 5 to watch my first Bucks game of the season.

Week 6 – Oct. 4

Candidates: Woodburn vs. Dallas, North Marion vs. La Salle

Out: Gervais at Colton, Kennedy at Central Linn, St. Paul at Dufur

A winnable conference game for the Bulldogs at home is a must-watch, and I’m curious to see how the Huskies perform against last year’s conference champs.

Week 7 – Oct. 10

Candidates: Woodburn vs. Silverton, Gervais at Monroe (Oct. 11), St. Paul vs. Alsea

Out: North Marion at Estacada, Kennedy bye

Woodburn and St. Paul play at home Thursday night. Gervais plays on the road, but Monroe is closer to my home in Salem. The Cougars are the lone team to play on Friday night, so I’ll get to watch their full game and catch three football games this week.

Week 8 – Oct. 18

Candidates: North Marion vs. Molalla, Gervais at Horizon Christian

Out: Woodburn at South Albany, Kennedy at Culver, St. Paul at Jewell

The Huskies are the lone home game this week, so I’ll be sure to check them out for their homecoming game against Molalla. But Gervais is playing just 15 minutes north at Horizon Christian, so I’ll attempt to catch the final quarter and a half of their game against the Hawks.

Week 9 – Oct. 25

Candidates: Woodburn vs. Crescent Valley, Gervais vs. Willamina, St. Paul vs. Falls City

Out: North Marion at Gladstone, Kennedy at Waldport

Senior night for the Bulldogs is a must watch. I’ll run over to St. Paul after halftime to catch a likely beat down against Falls City.

Week 10 – Nov. 1

Candidates: Kennedy vs. Santiam, St. Paul vs. Perrydale

Out: Gervais at Amity

Senior nights for Kennedy and St. Paul. I hear good things about the annual rivalry game between the Bucks and Pirates, so I’m excited to end the season on that note. If Woodburn or North Marion make the playoffs, they could throw a wrench in my spokes, but I’ll address that issue if/when it comes.

And that’s it until playoff season. On final tally, I will attend four games of each of the five football teams by the end of the season.

As for soccer, volleyball and cross country — don’t take this column as an indication that they’ll be treated as second class sports. Fortunately, those sports play multiple times per week, which allows me to be much less rigid in how and when I cover games.