GHSF Daily is expanding its Four Questions feature this season beyond head coaches to other voices in high school football. Today's interviewee is John Koon, the radio play-by-play announcer for the Vidalia Indians. He also has done play-by-play for Treutlen, Swainsboro, Toombs County and West Laurens in a career spanning more than 37 years. Koon has done play-by-play for GNN's broadcasts of the GHSA championship games and been a public-address announcer for GHSA semifinal and championship games.
John Koon, Vidalia play-by-play announcer
1. In calling high school games, where are you on the spectrum of "homer" and "totally objective?" "Oh wow, my job. Let's see. ... Since I was raised listening to Bob Prince, Lindsey Nelson and then Larry Munson, I definitely tend to be a homer. But I try not to be over the top with it as I realize that someone who is not an Indian fan may be listening. So, I try to paint a picture of the game so that those listening have the feel of being at the game, from the atmosphere of the crowd to the way the players and coaches react to a play. I do my best to convey what is going on in the whole stadium - where the ball is specifically, not just the yard line, but which hash it's on or if it's in the middle of the field, which direction the team is moving, how much time is left and what the score is, and so on. I want the listener to feel like they are there. A couple of my pet peeves are announcers who won't give you the score and how much time is left in a quarter. Back to being a 'homer,' if you are calling a game for a team for the year, and that station is the 'home' station of that school, then by all means go for it. That's what your people tune in for. Now, if you are a station that does a 'game of the week,' then that's different. When I get to the state championships [for the GHSA], my whole style changes to a certain degree, meaning that even if I have a friend who may be coaching one team or the other, I call it right down the middle."
2. What has drawn you to make high school football part of what you do for a living? "I have always loved high school football. Some of my fondest memories growing up as a child were Fridays. I was born in Western Maryland and lived there for 12 years, and as far back as I can remember, there was always an excitement in the air on Fridays. That's what you looked forward to because just like South Georgia it was a community event. People would be in the stands two hours before the game, and the energy was unmatched. It was also special because it was a time that my Dad and I shared together. I can't remember a Friday night until his passing when I was 12 that we didn't spend together at a football game on Friday night. That's why I love high school football - the sounds, the camaraderie, the excitement, the tradition. Towns live and die on what happens on Friday nights. I know that may sound cliché, but it's true. Some of these small towns have nothing to do without having to drive 15, 20 or 30 miles or more. But when fall rolls around, those people have something to look forward to, something they can call their own and something they have (or should have) pride in. That's why high school football is one of the best things going in this state, and I'm just glad to be a small part of it." [After moving to Georgia, Koon became a four-year starting guard for Treutlen from 1975 to 1978 and a three-time captain. His team was 0-10 as a freshman but 9-1 as a senior.]
3. What's the most memorable game you've ever seen? "I have been blessed to see many, many memorable games, but two really stick out as I had the honor of calling them. The first was in 1995, and Toombs County was in Lincoln County to take on the Red Devils in the quarterfinals of the Class A playoffs. Toombs came in as the No. 5 team in the AJC poll, and Lincoln County was No. 2. Toombs seemed to have the game in hand, leading with under a minute to play in the game. But you never count a Larry Campbell team out, and the Red Devils were able to score late and knock off Toombs County and advance to win the semifinal, and the next week capped off a 15-0 season with a 12-0 win over Macon County. The other game was in 2011 in the AAA state championship game when No. 2 Calhoun beat No. 1 Buford 27-24 for the first time ever and doing so won its first-ever state championship. The two teams had played the previous three championships, and Calhoun had come close in '09 but could never seem to get over the hump. This was the first state championship that was ever decided by overtime. Buford fumbled on the opening play of OT, and Hal Lamb didn't waste any time sending all-state kicker Adam Griffith in to try the field goal for the win. It was a 42-yard kick, and as soon as he hit it I knew it was good. It is definitely one of my favorite games that I've ever had the pleasure of calling. I have that one in my highlights."
4. Who was the best player you've ever seen? "Wow! Again, I've been blessed to see some incredible athletes, like Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Nick Chubb, Garrison Hearst, Monte Williams and the list goes on and on. I had the pleasure of watching Nate McBride here [at Vidalia]. I even played against Ivy Stokes from ECI who went to Tech. But for me it is still Herschel Walker. Hands down one of the most impressive athletes I have ever seen. We [Treutlen] played them in the region playoffs the year after I graduated in Soperton. Herschel was a senior, and Johnson County came into the game as the No. 2 seed from the other side because they had lost to ECI in the regular season. Herschel was sick and I mean sick, running a fever and everything, but there was no way he was staying off the field that night. He was on a mission and Treutlen happened to be in his way. He rushed for over 200 yards, scored three or four TDs, had an interception and recorded no telling how many tackles and only played a little over two quarters. It was amazing. Needless to say, they won 49-0 and went on to win the state championship and of course the rest is history. And the thing that impressed me about Herschel beyond his talent was the way he handled himself. No showboating, no drawing attention to himself, none of that stuff. He just went out and played ball and let the results do the talking."
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