4 Questions with GPB Sports’ football play-by-play announcer Matt Stewart

Today’s interviewee is Matt Stewart, who is in his 25th consecutive season of doing TV play-by-play for Georgia high school football. Stewart has been GPB Sports’ football play-by-play announcer since 2014. He will be covering the Roswell-Denmark game at Roswell’s Manus Stadium on Friday.

Matt Stewart, GPB Sports’ football play-by-play announcer

1. What’s interesting to you about the Roswell-Denmark game? “I think Roswell and Denmark are two programs poised to have great seasons. Denmark is just entering its fifth season of football and its third under coach Mike Palmieri. He started the Mallard Creek program in North Carolina and after going 2-20 his first two seasons turned them into a state power, going 137-14 over the next 11 seasons and winning three straight state championships in 2013-15. Palmieri has gone 14-8 in his first two seasons at Denmark and, coming off its first region title last year, I think the Danes are positioned for a big season. I had them ranked ninth in 7A on my GPB Sports preseason ballot.

“This is the 73rd season of Roswell football, and the Hornets are coming off a great season, going 10-3 in 2021, reaching the 7A quarterfinals. The Hornets moved down to 6A this season where I feel they will have at least as much success. Roswell’s great season was of course overshadowed by the tragic passing of star quarterback Robbie Roper, whose memory looms large over the program. His locker remains just as it was last December. [Roper passed away Dec. 22 of a rare genetic disorder.] K.J. Smith takes over at QB for Roswell and is a much different quarterback than Roper was, but he reminds a little of Malik Willis [a former Roswell quarterback now with the Tennessee Titans]. I had the Hornets ranked fourth on my GPB Sports preseason ballot.”

2. I like that you post your preseason rankings, and you take chances with them in terms of picking teams to have breakout years. Are there one or two that you put really high that have you stoked this season? “Like you said, I definitely took some chances on my picks with South Atlanta ranked No. 1 in AA and Whitefield Academy ranked No. 1 in 1A-D1. The Hornets are led by one of the top running backs in the state, Purdue commitment Keyjuan Brown, who rushed for over 2,700 yards last season. Whitefield has more recruiting talent in 1A than any other program but has never gotten past the second round of the state playoffs and has not won more than eight games since 2008. But there’s always a first time, right? I also think Meadowcreek will turn some heads. They rank ninth in the state in regard to college football recruiting talent, and Calvary Day, a 3A program jumped up from 1A Private, is 10th on that list.”

3. What are some of the storylines for this season that you’re most interested in seeing how they play out? “Buford will attempt to become the first program ever to win a state championship in every classification. But my question isn’t whether the Wolves can win the 7A state title but instead can anybody stop them from doing it? We could have a Buford vs. Grayson state championship game in December.

“Langston Hughes is loaded. Top senior recruiting class in the state and a blocked field goal away from beating Buford for the 6A state title last year. I think the Panthers will get it done here in 2022.

“And I’m bullish on a bunch of the programs that got bumped up to higher classifications because of the GHSA multiplier. I think Woodward, Trinity Christian and Calvary Day will all do well and be contenders in their new classifications.”

4. You are on the voting board for the new Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame. What was that experience like? “No. 1, what a great honor to be included in that process. My takeaway on the voting process is that we’ve got at least 10 years’ worth of Hall of Fame-worthy talent in our database right now. Factor in that we’ll continue to add candidates to that database every year, we’ll be filling up Hall of Fame classes here in Georgia for many years to come. I don’t ever envision a day where we run short of quality candidates, and it will always be a challenge to narrow down the talent to a manageable number of inductees.”

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