Book Reviews and Products

The Eighty-Yard Run
By Theron J. Hopkins (Twenty Town Press, PO Box 149, Yachats, OR 97498 or call: 541-547-4741)

Reviewer: Marc Maturo,; Lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and sports copy editor for The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.

Mr. Hopkins goes looking for high school football in America in his first book, with his search stretching across 20 weeks, 20 towns, and 20 teams -- one of which went undefeated, 12 others posted winning records, and seven failed to break even.

But the search, one that takes you coast to coast, from California to Pennsylvania, is much more than simply a chronicle of one team's success and failures on the field. Much more interestingly than the wins and losses -- though they, too, are riveting and revealed from an insider's vantage point -- are the players, the coaches, the fans, and the families that are brought very much to life through Mr. Hopkins' keen eye for detail and dialogue.

This is a work of affection, something that is instantly evident from the first week with the Blanco High School Tigers in Blanco, Texas, to the six-man football team (yes, they still play six-man football in America) at Fort Davis High School in Fort Davis, Texas, to the strong finish with the Katy High School Tigers in Katy, Texas. The troubles, travails, and the emotional highs and lows examined so well with these teams are no less the story when you visit such towns as Hillsborough, North Carolina; Valentine, Nebraska; or Sutter, California.

This is high school football in all its possible glory, with heart-rending cases that tug at the soul, with coaches who find themselves in the proverbial "must-win" situations -- as with the Valdosta High School Wildcats in Valdosta, Georgia -- with kids who go wrong as happens in Syracuse, New York, with the Corcoran High School Cougars. You are taken on the road with the Washington High School Tigers in Massillon, Ohio, a hotbed for high school football where the Tigers are escorted by police cars and the chief of security and the traveling party consists of 10 charter buses.

Mr. Hopkins recounts the uplifting story of a cross-country star in Nebraska, where his father is the school's athletic director and whose mother would paint the bright red Badger head at midfield for home games. The cross-country star had reservations about playing football but, as in a fairy tale, not only makes the club but leads the state in interceptions.

This wonderful excursion of Mr. Hopkins' also takes you to Sheridan, Wyoming for a ride with a terribly successful Sheridan team that has won more state titles (22) than any other team in the state and which works out in a $1.8 million on-campus fitness center. Or how about the Kamiakin High School Braves in Kennewick, Washington, where a meal at a local eatery takes on a life of its own: where the shrimp and fries at Miner's are as celebrated as the team. "Hope you brought your appetite," roars the coach, "because now the fun begins."

There is much more to celebrate in The Eighty-Yard Run, which is a touchdown toss for sure by Theron J. Hopkins.

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