Iowa high school football: CL/G-LR getting ready for its closeup
ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- Toby Lorenzen has no worries that when his high school football team plays its first game of the 2013 season Aug. 29, his players will be mugging for television.
Fans, maybe, will give in to the temptation. But not the players.
When Lorenzen, head coach of the Central Lyon/George-Little Rock Lions, was asked if he's preparing his team slightly differently in the knowledge that the opener (at Rock Rapids) will be broadcast by the Iowa High School Sports Network, he said he wasn't at all.
"We're just glad we're getting the exposure," he said this week.
Central Lyon/George-Little Rock has gotten its share of statewide exposure in the past. The program has sent teams to the Iowa state football championship game five times since 1996. But unless the Lions get to the finals, Lorenzen suggests, they and other northwest Iowa teams have been typically forgotten around the state.
"It's just a matter of, when we don't get to the state level, they pretty much ignore us," said the coach.
This year, then, is different, for both CL/G-LR and its longtime rival West Lyon. Historically different.
This is the first year IHSSN is planning live coverage of any Iowa prep game in the regular season. So when officials decided to do it this year, they were looking for a good rivalry to broadcast.
The CL/G-LR vs. West Lyon rivalry is one of the best. It certainly does get the attention of Lyon County fans.
"Basically every school in the county is represented in that one game. It's just a great small-town rivalry," said Lorenzen.
West Lyon won the showdown last year, 14-7, but CL/G-LR won two years ago, 16-14. Both teams have enjoyed a long tradition of football success.
Central Lyon/George-Little Rock is coming off a somewhat disappointing 6-4 season -- disappointing, Lorenzen says, because the team "didn't win the district championship. And that's always our No. 1 goal."
Though it's still too early to tell, Lorenzen expects a better year in 2013, armed with a senior class that is not deep, with only 11 seniors on hand, but makes up for it in talent.
"We're happy with our program right now. We have a real good district. We think we can be one of the teams that can contend for the district championship this year," he said.
With the introduction of television, the Lyon County rivalry has undergone one significant change. Traditionally, the CL/G-LR vs. West Lyon battle has been called the "Beef Bowl" as a acknowledgement to the many beef producers in the area. The IHSSN has named its television game the "Agriculture Bowl," supposedly to make the broadcast feel more inclusive for other ag-related sponsors.
"It's fine with us," said Lorenzen. "It's all about football to us."
Again, the veteran coach brought the issue back to northwest Iowa sensibilities.
"This kind of gives us a reassurance that we really do play good football in Lyon County," he said.
The game will not only be televised locally; it will be available regionally in six states. Besides KELO-TV in Sioux Falls, S.D., it can be seen through Fox 44 out of Sioux City, Iowa, KPTM in Omaha, Neb., KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and KDMI in Des Moines, Iowa. Regional coverage will be on Comcast Sportnet, on Dish channel 429 and Directv channel 665. It will also be streaming live through IHSSN.com.
Because it's going to be on TV, fans and players can expect a few more timeouts -- "TV timeouts" is the popular definition. But there will be a video board at the game, showing the action on the field. Every game participant will receive a medallion with the Ag Bowl logo on the front and their school on the back, and T-shirts will be distributed throughout the game.
An offensive and defensive MVP will be named at the conclusion of the contest.