CENTRE - A lot can happen in 34 years, but one constant for WEIS radio station in Centre has been its high school football coverage.
The station (100.5 FM, 990 AM) is preparing for its 34th season broadcasting games from around the Cherokee County area. Their broadcast season begins Aug. 24 with jamboree action at Sand Rock. The regular season broadcasts start a week later with the Cherokee County at Piedmont game on Sept. 1.
Veteran broadcaster Nolen Sanford returns for his 20th season behind the mike. Joining him for the fifth year is Shane McElwee.
"I'm excited as always," Sanford said. "It's fun to see what the new faces (on the football field) can do every year, but also to see the growth in the young men from previous years."
"It's hard to believe it's already been five years," McElwee said. "I think one of the strongest parts of what Nolen and I do is the rapport we have with each other. We've become friends off the air too. I think we both have similar senses of humor. It just seems like we play well off of each other."
The one responsible for putting that chemistry Sanford and McElwee share together on the air is station manager Jerry Baker. He's excited to have them both back in the booth for another year.
"They both have a great knowledge of the game, and they're able to paint a good picture of what's going on from the broadcast booth so the listeners at home can visualize what's going on on the field," Baker said. "We think they're as good a team as there is covering high school football on Friday nights in the booth."
Sanford and McElwee are coming off calling a strong 2016 football season throughout the area. Four of the five schools in Cherokee County not only made the playoffs, but hosted first-round playoff games. Neighboring Piedmont went on to win its second consecutive Class 3A state championship.
Sanford and McElwee called several outstanding games along each team's respective paths last season, and they're hoping to do much the same this season.
"That first week matchup, Cherokee County at Piedmont, should be special. I believe it could be breakthrough year for Cherokee County against the Bulldogs," Sanford said.
"Week 2 with Spring Garden at Gaylesville will be fun. The Panthers have become a legit program and I want to see what they bring to the table this season. As for Gaylesville, I believe it will be a great opportunity to get a feel for what kind of year they will have.
"On Sept. 29, we have Collinsville at Cedar Bluff, and that is always fun. It's an out-of-region matchup, but these two schools will go at each other as fiercely as they can. We'll get to see a lot of athletes on the field.
"The final two weeks of the regular season should provide a fantastic finish. Cedar Bluff takes on Spring Garden (Oct. 27) for what we think again could be the region title matchup, and to finish the regular season with Cedar Bluff and Sand Rock, that's a superb appetizer for the playoffs."
McElwee said he's not only looking forward to those games, but some others on the schedule as well.
"Oneonta comes to Cherokee County this year (Sept. 22). That's not a matchup we've seen a lot," he said. "I know they've played each other in the playoffs and I know they've been in the same region before in the past, but that's an interesting matchup there.
"You look down at Oct. 6 with Woodville at Gaylesville, and you're probably looking at a playoff berth on the line in that one. Section at Sand Rock the next week (Oct. 13) is another matchup we don't get to see every year. Ashville at Cherokee County the week after that (Oct. 20) should be an interesting matchup there."
What makes each of the matchups interesting for both Sanford and McElwee to cover this year is the unknowns with several area teams.
"I see a lot of transition this year," McElwee said. "We lost a lot of good seniors last year, some guys who had played a lot of football, but you've Tyren Dupree back at Cherokee County, and you've got Jansen Alexander back at Sand Rock. You've got to like both of their chances because they've got their quarterbacks back.
"Spring Garden will break in a lot of new folks, and Cedar Bluff has Isaiha Jones and Ivory Starr back. It's going to be interesting to see if they go with the (Luke) Hampton kid at quarterback or play the Wildcat like they did in the Spring Garden game last year.
"Gaylesville could have been a really good team last year, but the injury bug bit them early and I don't think we ever saw them as good as they could have been. I like what Coach (Kyle) Garmon does there, so it will be interesting to see how those guys come back this year.
"Piedmont loses one of those once-in-a-generation-type guys in Taylor Hayes. Austin Brazier, Chase Bobbitt and those guys are all gone, but they just reload. They're going to look different this year, but you look around and have a hard time finding someone, especially in North Alabama, who's going to be able to beat them."
To help get fans prepared for the weekend's action on both the high school and college football fields, "The End Zone Show" will return for its seventh year. The show, hosted by McElwee, is every Thursday night during football season at 6 p.m.
Joining McElwee is former Sand Rock football coach Russell Jacoway, along with Cherokee County Herald sports editor Shannon Fagan and The Post managing editor Scott Wright. Each member of the so-called "Round Table" will review the previous week's games and offer their insight on the current weekend's action.
"That's one of my favorite things to do," McElwee said. "The games are always fun, but I always enjoy that one hour on Thursday being with the guys. It's kind of like with Nolen. We all play off of each other well. What Coach Jacoway has brought the past couple of years has really helped us a lot. I enjoy that role of being the host."
Last year's "End Zone Show" was held at and sponsored by the Huddle House in Centre. Baker said he's still working on this year's site and sponsor.
"It's a good setup to the Friday night broadcast," Baker said. "We feel like it's grown in its popularity over the years."
But regardless of the location of this year's show, Baker expects another exciting season.
"We think with the broadcast lineup we have we're going to have a good broadcast year," he said. "We try to be in someone's stadium every Friday night bringing a quality broadcast to the area so people who may not be able to make it to a particular game, if they want to hear it they'll be able to do so. That's always the intent, to make listening fun and enjoyable for our listeners."