Page 39 - Salem Magazine Spring 2015
P. 39

                                 Our Community
“Friday Football Extra was huge when I played. I remember every Friday after our games, we would rush to go to a teammate’s house. Easily we would have over 100 people in a house just to watch highlights. Everybody was quiet when they started, but it was a party every night.” Former Salem star Running Back Dennis Haley
  Stevens hosted Friday Football Extra for over 20 years. The broadcasts focused on more than the game. It was a chance for big cities and small towns like Salem to see their own team on television. It was a show ahead of its time.
broadcast. Coach White turned the Spartans into a powerhouse battling for state championships as the show’s popularity also turned into its own powerhouse. The stars of Salem high school were featured every Friday night on WDBJ during their first championship run in 1996.
“There’s no way we expected the impact a show like Friday Football Extra would make. It’s pretty cool how it did,” explained Mark Brown, the show’s first producer. “When WDBJ launched the show in 1984, it was a novel idea and it just took off. That is a credit to the people that worked on it and a credit to the host.”
“Friday Football Extra was huge when I played. I remember every Friday after our games, we would rush to go to a teammate’s house,” said former Salem star running back Dennis Haley. “Easily we would have over 100 people in a house just to watch highlights. Everybody was quiet when they started, but it was a party every night.”
Beyond the viewing area, many local television stations outside of the viewing area took note of how a high school football show should be produced.
Haley was featured as a player of the week during his four years with the Spartans from 1996-99. He scored 63 touchdowns over his career, always looking for the cameras during every game.
“WDBJ was respected across the country for Friday Football Extra. People in the business knew about how innovative a show like that was,” said former WDBJ Sports Reporter Steve Mason. “It was a blast. You felt like you were a part of the game and part of the excitement. It was a challenge because you had to be so meticulous with your time.”
“We would be standing on the sidelines looking for the Channel 7 camera,” Haley said. “‘Are we going to be on TV tonight? Yep, we sure are.’ We loved seeing them on the sideline. It was the greatest show on earth. The way they captured the event was great.”
Friday Football Extra quickly grew to a 30-minute broadcast due to the number of games featured each week. Every one of the station’s photographers would travel to one or two of the games in a night, all carefully mapped and planned by Stevens.
It was like that all across the WDBJ viewing area. The show dominated the Friday airwaves from Galax to Appomattox, Danville to Hot Springs. Fans enjoyed the shows, but it was also a battle between photographers to give Stevens the best highlights every week.
“If we got 12 games on a standard night, that was 24 communities on the air,” said former WDBJ photographer Travis Wells. “Mike wanted us to get shots of the families and fans, the cheerleaders, the players, the band or the concession stand. Yes, it’s about football, but it’s also about communities.”
“As photographers, we would go out and shoot our games and then come back and compare highlights. It turned into a friendly competition,” Wells said. “The great thing about Friday Football Extra is that everybody at the station took ownership in it.”
Salem was one of the primary schools covered in each
  The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is located in downtown Portsmouth and four others with Salem ties are enshrined there. Roanoke College basketball players Paul Rice and Frankie Allen, Maroons Coach Charlie Moir and Roanoke College graduate and sports writer Bob McLelland.
Roy Stanley and Mike Stevens worked together on Friday Football Extra for over 300 shows before Stanley’s sudden passing in 2002. Both grew up in Southwestern Virginia and knew the value that high school football had in the small communities inside the WDBJ viewing area.
www.salemva.gov | SPRING 2015
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