Lights. Camera. Kickoff.
For a select few East Valley players each season, football goes Hollywood on Thursday nights. They are on teams that agreed to play a Thursday game televised live on cable by Cox 9.
To the players, it seems the opportunity is a shot at their 15 minutes of fame — possibly their only chance ever to appear on television.
"Obviously, kids from the high school level don’t get to get on TV too much," said Coronado quarterback Louis Marson, who will lead the Dons against rival Saguaro in the Oct. 30 TV game. "It’s just a high school football game, but we like it."
Not everyone is in love with Thursday night TV football — which started four seasons ago — preferring the traditional Friday night slots.
"When you play on Thursday night, the kids have school on Friday morning," said Mountain View athletic director David Hines, whose 5A perennial powerhouse has always turned down offers to play the Thursday night TV game. "We are concerned with kids getting treatment on the day after a game. That makes it difficult."
The chance to play on TV is not the only reason teams sometimes are asked to play on Thursdays. For instance, most Valley schools are playing tonight because Friday is the start of the Jewish season, Rosh Hashanah.
"It is different because everyone has to do it," Hines said. "With the TV game, you are the only ones playing on a short week. We prefer not to do that, or have a long week the week after. We like playing on Fridays."
Because not all schools have embraced the Thursday night TV concept, the weekly games aren’t always worthy of top billing. For example, one of the Thursday night games played this season was Phoenix South Mountain at Skyline. It was a competitive game, but neither team probably will end up in the 5A playoffs.
The top two matchups so far this season, Hamilton vs. Mountain View and Chaparral vs. Peoria Centennial, were played on Friday nights, without live television.
Cox 9 spokeswoman Andrea Katsenes said several factors are considered when matching up teams on a Thursday night, including past performance and stadium accommodations.
Katsenes said Cox games last season drew TV ratings of between 0.6 and 1.2 — the percentage of Cox Cable households that tuned into the game.
Don’t put Coronado coach B.J. Pasquel on the list of those opposed to Thursday night TV football. Pasquel, whose Dons are playing in a TV game this year for the third straight season, said any problems presented by playing on a Thursday are far outweighed by the benefits players can reap.
"I know the kids love playing in it," Pasquel said. "I like it. I think it’s a great experience for the kids. They get pumped up about being on TV. It is one day less of preparation, but both teams have it. Your practices may be a little bit longer early in the week, but both teams have to do the same thing.
"If they ask every year, we’ll continue doing it. I think the pros outweigh the cons."
According to Pasquel, it is important the week of a TV game to make sure players keep focused. The Dons say they have gotten that message.
"Coach said it’s just a chance for us to get on TV," said Coronado lineman Chase Lechner. "It doesn’t matter who we play, it’s another game."
Pasquel has backing on Thursday night TV football from Coronado athletic director Nathan Slater.
"We get money for our athletic budget, which obviously is needed," said Slater, noting the home team in a TV game receives $1,000 and the visitor gets $500. "It’s a good experience for the kids. They just love it. . . . It’s the ESPN of Arizona."
Tempe also likes TV football. The Buffaloes are in tonight’s TV game, playing host to 4A’s seventh-ranked Phoenix Washington.
"It is every kid’s dream to play on TV," said Tempe quarterback Baldo Besich. "I’m just glad we can play. We’re trying everyone, but we’ve still got to remember we’re playing (a game)."
Buffaloes running back Tony Cuevas plans to watch a tape of tonight’s game when he gets home.
"I’m really psyched about being on TV," Cuevas said. "Everyone will be watching it. I have my family recording it. It’s a big game."
As a coach, Tempe’s Mike Rhiner understands why some schools don’t like the Thursday night TV game. But he thinks schools should play in the game.
"I think it’s a great opportunity for (players)," Rhiner said. "It brings some excitement to high school football. It’s great for the kids."