Today's interviewee is Matt Stewart, who will be doing play-by-play this week for six of the nine games at the Corky Kell Classic for Peachtree TV/CBS46. Stewart has called high school games for 22 years, originally with Media One Channel 33, which evolved into Comcast Sports Southeast, and for the past six seasons with GPB. Early in his career, Stewart did high school football on the radio at Griffin and Clarke Central. Stewart also works for the ESPN/SEC Network, calling college football, basketball, baseball and softball.
Matt Stewart, play-by-play commentator and sportscaster
1. You've covered a wide range of sports in your career, but high school football in Georgia has been a staple of that for 22 years now. What is it about high school football that draws you to it? "I love the energy of Friday nights. I love the smell. I love the sound. I love the enthusiasm. I'm not naïve enough to think that high school football is innocent, but it's still mostly about the competition and winning for your team, your school, the community or town you live in. I love sports in general because you don't know how the story is going to end."
2. What is the best or most memorable player, team and game that you've ever seen in a game that you called? "That's really hard to answer off the top of my head, and the more I think about it, the longer my answer will get. The most incredible high school football player I think would have to be Eric Berry at Creekside. I bet that's the way Deion Sanders looked in high school. Another one that people might say 'Huh?' is Marcus Ball at Stephenson. I saw him destroy Parkview one Friday night by himself. Jon Abbate and the late Paul Oliver at Harrison. More recently Dominick Blaylock at Walton. Team? Recently Milton last year. I knew when I saw Jordan Yates and Milton beat Archer in the Corky Kell last year that they had a chance to do something extraordinary, and they did. Starr's Mill back in the day when that school was just getting started, led by Reuben Houston. The Panthers knocked off Brookwood in the playoffs. Special team. The Parkview team that won 46 straight games was amazing, a juggernaut.
"Games? Back in my radio days, Jason Elam - remember him? - kicked two field goals and Brookwood beat Clarke Central 6-0. It was the first time a Gwinnett school had ever beaten the Gladiators, a watershed moment in Gwinnett County football history. Things have been different ever since. Brookwood ending Parkview's 46-game winning streak. Newnan beating Parkview in the quarterfinals on a fumble scoop-and-score on the final play of the game. Statesboro beating Tucker in the playoffs on a field goal with literally one-tenth of a second on clock when they ran the field goal team on the field with the clock running and just got the snap off. Stephenson vs. Tucker several years ago was the most incredible last two minutes of a game I ever saw. Last year, the 5A final and Bainbridge beating Warner Robins 47-41 in three overtimes."
3. Which team or player or story line are you most interested in this week at the Corky Kell? "All the coaches making their debuts at some pretty big programs - Bryant Appling (Buford), Clay Stephenson (Calhoun), Josh Lovelady (Mill Creek), and Kip Klein (Ridgeland). What will Milton look like after losing their GOAT (Jordan Yates) and 14 big-time senior starters, many who were the heart and soul of that team. Marietta is easily the most talented team in the state, according to recruiting rankings. Can they finally put it all together and win in the senior seasons of these kids - most of whom have been playing varsity since freshman years? How does Rome reload? It will be a reload, not a rebuild. I think North Gwinnett is being undervalued in most of the rankings. I've got them No. 2 in mine."
4. What would you change about GHSA football? "Easy. Time for my soapbox. Change the playoff format and seed the teams. The current playoff format routinely produces the best games in the quarterfinals. Some of the best teams are eliminated before they should be, and teams that should be, aren't. I already have a plan in place. Region champs are seeded 1-8. That way teams that finish first still get two home playoff games. Region No. 2s are seeded 9-16. Again, a reward for finishing second in the region, guaranteed one home game. The rest of the field seeded 17-32 by power rankings or composite rankings that GHSF Daily puts together. We're smart enough to come up with something that will work. To me, that would take what is a good thing already - the GHSA playoffs - and make them great. That's all I've got for now. For more, you'll have to read my book. Maybe one day I'll write one."
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