Hillsborough County football is More Than a Game
Editor's note: Each week this fall, Times photographer Eve Edelheit scanned the county to focus on the ancillary aspects — players, drama, coaches, fans, highs, lows, tradition, cheerleaders — that made prep football in this area "More Than a Game." After 16 weeks of photo packages, Edelheit reflected on chronicling the season.
It was a humid late August afternoon that I began photographing the first More Than a Game at Strawberry Crest High School. While the sweat from my forehead began to cloud my viewfinder, what was unfolding in front of me was clear: passion. Over the 16 weeks of this past season, I had the honor of bearing witness to a community coming together over something that was bigger than individual teams, rivalries and who beat whom each week. What Hillsborough County taught me was that high school football is about more than what happens on the field.
It's the look of determination behind the football players' face masks. It's the laughter heard in a cheerleaders' bathroom while girls get ready for that evening's game. It's the marching band sharing fries after a long night of playing in the rain. It's the moment of silence before the homecoming queen is announced. It's the tears streaming down the face of players and coaches experiencing defeat.
Finding a different story at a different school each week allowed me to explain another piece of the important puzzle that was football in the county. It took all these different stories coming together to show why the stands fill with screaming fans and family members every Friday night. Not only do these players need football to teach them lessons that help them grow into young adults, but the community needs it too. In the adversity and challenges people face in their everyday lives, it gives them something consistent to believe in. Growing up in Minnesota, I never understood why high school football was important. After experiencing a season in this county, I am a true believer. It truly is hard to put into words the electricity that rushes through a stadium on a Friday night as the sun sets.
Thank you, Hillsborough County football teams, coaches, parents, families, marching bands, cheerleaders, announcers and fans for allowing me to tell your stories this season. I hope I have been able to shed some light on the football community and what makes it truly unique to Hillsborough County.