4 Questions with GHSF Daily co-founder Chip Saye

Today’s interviewee is Chip Saye, who co-founded Georgia High School Football Daily in 2009. Saye has covered high school football for the Athens Banner-Herald/Daily News, Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail and Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspapers since 1985 but began attending games long before it became his profession. In the past 25 years, Saye has kept a record of the nearly 600 games and more than 200 teams he has seen in person.

1. What is it about high school football that you enjoy so much? “First and foremost, I’ve always been a football fan. And there’s something special about Friday Night Lights in the South. The athletes and coaches in Georgia are as good as any in the country. But another factor for me is the childhood memories that are stirred when I go to the games. Before I even got to elementary school, I was going to games regularly with my dad, Harry Saye, who played on Athens High’s 1955 state championship team that featured Fran Tarkenton. My dad told me that he took me to my first game when I was 5 years old, but the first one I remember was two years later when we saw Lakeside play Columbia in 1971 at what then was called DeKalb Memorial Stadium. Lakeside was a defending state champion and Columbia had Glynn Harrison, an all-state player who went on to play at Georgia. I was immediately hooked. My dad and I went to games together pretty much every week of the season every year until I left for college and then resumed the tradition about 15 years later. My dad passed away in 2013, but I have continued the tradition with my daughter, Caroline. I took her to see her first game when she was 2 years old, and she’s now as big a fan as I am.”

2. What’s the significance of the 25 years and the records you’ve kept? How many games and how many teams have you seen during that time? “As I said, I have attended high school football games most of my life, but there was a period from the late 1980s through the late ‘90s when I was only able to attend a game or two every couple of years because of my job. However, my job situation changed in 1997, freeing up my Friday nights to start going to games again. In fact, Monday was the 25th anniversary of my return to high school football. On Sept. 5, 1997, I went to Athens and saw Clarke Central win 28-6 at Cedar Shoals. I’ve only missed one or two Friday nights since and have had many weeks where I attended more than one game. Since the start of this 25-year run, I’ve attended 591 games and seen 207 Georgia teams (and four out-of-state teams) play. That’s about half the football-playing schools in the GHSA. I’d estimate that I saw about 150 games before 1997, putting me at around 750 total. Considering that I’ve spent most of my life living in metro Atlanta and I cover teams from that area for the AJC, I’ve seen Cobb, Gwinnett and DeKalb teams the most.”

3. What were some of the most memorable games you’ve seen? “I went to a lot of the Brookwood-Parkview games in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Those were some great teams and exciting games, and the atmosphere was unreal. The details run together because I saw so many of those matchups, but they seemed to always come down to the wire. I saw Lowndes beat Southwest DeKalb 28-27 in an incredible back-and-forth quarterfinal game at Hallford Stadium in 1999, and then was at the Georgia Dome the following week when Lowndes rallied from a 28-3 halftime deficit to beat Northside of Warner Robins 31-28. Lowndes went on to beat Brunswick for the championship the next week. Going back a bit further, I saw Clarke Central beat Buck Belue and Valdosta 16-14 in Athens in the 1977 Class 3A championship game. Clarke Central got the winning points on a safety, and Valdosta missed a late field goal that would’ve won it. And one of the most memorable games I saw was the controversial Lakeside-Douglass game in the 1975 semifinals, when Lakeside appeared to have won on a late field goal, but the victory was overturned by the GHSA because of the way the clock was handled at the end of the game.”

4. Of all the stadiums where you’ve seen games, which ones were your favorites? Are there others you’d still like to visit? “One of my favorite places to watch a game is McEachern’s Cantrell Stadium. That’s especially true if I’m covering a game for the AJC, because their press box is the best around. McEachern’s stadium is about as big or bigger than what a lot of small colleges have, so you’re always comfortable, even if they have a large crowd. I’d never been to Carrollton’s Grisham Stadium, but I got the chance during the playoffs last year. That’s a great stadium, too. Other well-known ones I really enjoyed were the Granite Bowl in Elberton, the Brickyard in Thomson, Billy Henderson Stadium in Athens, Hallford Stadium in DeKalb County, Brookwood Community Stadium in Snellville and Tom Riden Stadium in Buford. As for the ones I’d like to see, Valdosta’s Bazemore-Hyder Stadium would top the list. McConnell-Talbert in Warner Robins, Camden County’s Chris Gilman Stadium, Washington County’s House of Pain and Lincoln County’s Larry Campbell Stadium/Buddy Bufford Field would be on it, too. And just about any of the small towns in south Georgia where the community turns out for the game on Friday night would be neat to experience. Lowndes’ Martin Stadium would be fun to visit, too. My daughter got to see a game there a few years ago, as a student trainer for Hillgrove when the Hawks lost to Lowndes 92-61 in the 2016 playoffs. I was jealous of her on that one.”

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