ESPN Senior Audio Engineer George Ryan makes some final adjustments Friday as the crew prepares for their upcoming coverage of the ESPN High School Kickoff game between Norcross and Booker T. Washington in Norcross tonight. Ryan is located in the audio control room in a bus parked outside Norcross’ stadium. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
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Pick up your copy of the 2013 Football Preview in the print edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post.
NORCROSS — For football fans across the nation who don’t yet know who Lorenzo Carter is, ESPN plans to introduce him to the rest of the country tonight.
For the people around Norcross High School, the star defensive end is also a freshman tutor.
“He’s helping other students, it has nothing to do with him playing football or being as good as he is,” Principal Will Bishop said. “When he introduced himself to the freshmen, it was, ‘I’m Lorenzo, I’m a senior, and I’m here to help you.’ It wasn’t about him.”
Carter will be among several Norcross players and opponents from Miami’s Booker T. Washington High School featured on the 7 p.m. ESPN broadcast. It’s the end of a doubleheader that begins with South Gwinnett against Lincoln (Fla.) and part of a 13-game showcase of high school games over three days that began Friday.
The two-game showcase at Norcross featuring the host Blue Devils vs. Booker T. Washington (Fla.) and South Gwinnett vs. Lincoln (Fla.) will both air live on ESPN. South’s game follows a noon Apopka (Fla.) at Byrnes (S.C.) game.
The commentators for the game will be Clay Matvick and former Parkview and Georgia standout Matt Stinchcomb.
“You’re talking about national exposure, talking about a once-in-a-lifetime thing for these coaches and these kids,” Norcross coach Keith Maloof said. “It’s not every day you get to be on national television on ESPN and play another team as high caliber as we are going to play.”
Booker T. Washington is ranked No. 1 in the country by USATODAY, the same poll that has Norcross at No. 6. Last year, the Tornadoes scored nearly 50 points a game and won the state title in Class AAAA. The game will feature about 10 Division I recruits between the teams.
ESPN Producer Mike Moore said the crew at Norcross would have six cameras and about 40 people. The lines and end zones were painted Friday afternoon before a helicopter flew over the soggy field to dry it out.
ESPN began broadcasting high school games in 2003, but now airs about 25 to 30 games each season.
“We produce these games for the college fans to show them who the stars are going to be on their college team,” said Moore, who will produce all 13 games from studios in Charlotte, N.C. “We look for games that have good players on good teams.”
To select the games, ESPN works with a marketing company in Chicago, Paradigm, to choose the matchups, but it helps that some teams are willing to travel, Moore said. That’s the case with the two Florida schools coming to Norcross. Lincoln arrived Friday afternoon on coach buses, and had an escort from the Leon County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office.
To begin the school day Friday, the Norcross High band and cheerleaders walked through the hallways playing the fight song. And Bishop said even for a school known for championship success in multiple sports, this week was unique.
“It’s a neat thing for our school,” Bishop said. “For people to see positive things going on, we like to get word out, because we do have a lot of good things going on.”
As part of the broadcast, Moore said ESPN would highlight the history of each program, previous state titles and other tidbits to provide context for the national audience.
Part of that could include the state championships the school collected last year in football, boys and girls basketball and boys golf. The golf team will be honored at halftime when players will receive their rings.
“Our students and our faculty, I think they’re more productive in the classroom because they’re engaged with what’s going on at school,” Bishop said. “When we have good things going on, academically or athletically, it helps out everything that goes on. You might not think how the football team plays has any affect on academics, but it really does. If kids are enjoying their time here, they tend to do better in the classroom.”
Also at the game, there will be a pregame ceremony from the Class of 1966, which moved a bell from an original school building, built in 1903, to the current stadium, where brick work was recently finished. The Class of 2003 will also celebrate its 10-year reunion in a halftime ceremony.
Staff Writer Ben Beitzel contributed to this story.