High School Football Returns To Video Replay With Plenty of “CRUNCH”

High school football in the region will return to the video airwaves this season, albeit with a new look, new format, new name, along with a long-running outstanding production crew and pair of play-by-play professionals well-known throughout the region.
“CRUNCH Game of the Week with Dave Ross” is the newly rebranded name that kicks off the 2022 high school season later this month after looking for a new home since the end of last fall. Dating back to 2014 when former WDBJ7 program director Mike Bell came up with the idea of producing a weekly high school football game in conjunction with the TV Production Class at Franklin County High School, the format became an instant success among high school teams and their fans from schools throughout the region.
After three years at WDBJ7, the show eventually moved to Roanoke’s WWCW Channel 5, where it appeared until last season under the name “Student Playback High School Football Game of the Week.”  When WWCW officials decided to discontinue their association with the Playback game last fall, athletes, coaches and football fans alike were hoping for another outlet to save the day.
Franklin County High School was likewise looking for a favorable outcome and new home, since the school system had invested a large amount of capital and resources to upgrade their TV Production equipment, including several high-definition cameras, production computers, director screens, instant replay capability and even a production van to bring the show to the various high school football stadiums each week.
VHSL Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Ross (left) will be joined by color commentator Steve Myers for the new “CRUNCH High School Game of the Week with Dave Ross.” (Bill Turner photo).

In stepped Carl York, the long-time brainchild behind the “CRUNCH” high school football publication that had been a staple throughout Roanoke, Lynchburg and the New River Valley for nearly three decades. York was an advertising and marketing executive for Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, and the weekly “CRUNCH” foldout publication was available at the grocery store checkouts and other business locations as a way for Kroger to promote its community connection and bring shoppers into their grocery stores each week.

The publication was very popular among high school football fans, and included inside information on each week’s upcoming games, predictions from guest panelists, and recaps of the previous week’s outcomes. One of the most unique features of “CRUNCH” were comments by the various high school coaches addressing the turning point of their prior week’s games. It could vary from a certain play, a key defensive stop, kickoff return or a moment in practice when a player offered inspiring words to his teammates that led to a win. In certain instances when a game was won or lost by 40- 50 points, the coach would often dryly note, regardless of whether they were on the winning or losing end, “there was NO turning point in this game.” Fans learned the little things that can quickly change the outcome of a high school football contest.
After Kroger ended its connection to “CRUNCH” eight years ago, York took over as the main go-to guy.
“There was never an exit plan for me,” York noted during an exclusive interview last week. “I was determined to keep it going. We want to support these young people, their teams, and their fans. And, we are focused on having these great coaches involved. It’s really all about the kids.”
When the opportunity presented itself after CW5 stepped away, the former Playback Game of the Week was scrambling for a new home and York had a new vision for the games. New ideas and imagination gave the way to greater heights. It all got started when long-time VHSL Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Ross, the “Student High School Football Playback Game of the Week” voice since its inception, approached York looking for a format to successfully get the weekly games back on the air.
“Dave pointed out the stumbling blocks that had been encountered and his desire to keep the games on the air,” York said.” And, I wanted to present a broadcasting alternative that would be a positive new look to the way the game would be delivered.”
“The new system involves streaming the games via our CRUNCH computer network,” York points out. “Depending on various computer equipment a viewer has, the game can be watched on their television, their computer and their smartphones. The starting time of the games will be the same each week. (currently planned for 3PM on the Saturday afternoon following the Friday night game). The other outstanding new feature will be that viewers can watch the game every day if they desire, and it will be stored to watch anytime down the road at the viewer’s discretion. In the former format you could only watch the game when it aired, or you could record it using your video recorder. If you missed the original broadcast or forgot to set your DVR, you were out of luck.”
“”Once the Friday night game ends, the school playback team will edit the production, add in the various commercials and have everything ready for the Saturday broadcast,” York added.
Another new concept involves how the weekly games are chosen from those taking place in the Roanoke Valley, Lynchburg area and the New River Valley. During other weekly CRUNCH broadcasts on the internet and radio, viewers will be given the opportunity to vote on the weekly game based on rivalries, key matchups and certain games that present an exceptional interest such as an out-of-town powerhouse taking on a local team.
York pointed out that he and Ross will oversee the selection process to make sure nobody stacks the ballot box, and area teams throughout the 3-area region will be given ample opportunity to be on the schedule.
“We felt it was important to let the listeners and readers be a part of the process,” York said.
Ross will be joined in the broadcast booth by his long-time sidekick and color commentator, Steve Myers. Ross relishes his role working with the high school students.
“I’ve always been very impressed,” Ross, who has broadcast games for over seven decades in various media outlets, notes. “These kids have always been totally professional, very polite and they are good people who will have success as they move on in life. On top of the crew, the most important thing to me is getting these young high school players and their coaches on TV, because they would never have that opportunity otherwise. Few will play at the college level, so this is their day to be in the spotlight.”
Another new face this year will be the TV Production teacher at Franklin County, Kevin Plaster. Plaster, who currently has 50 students enrolled in the various TV classes said there is excitement that the games are now on go with a new format.
“It’s actually a perfect fit for us,” Plaster pointed out. “CW opted not to go with us for another year and we wanted to continue, so we looked at several options. We decided “CRUNCH” fit best with what we were doing, since it is all about local sports. It also should make the transfer better and a little easier on us. It’s a win across the board.”
Libby Jeans (left) sits in front of the director’s monitor with audio director Brianna Moore during a 2021 game. Jeans returns as the director for the new CRUNCH format this year. (Bill Turner photo).

The TV production crew will remain at 7 specially selected students and several will be returning from last year. Their roles vary from camera operators, an audio manager and captioning expert to the overall operations director, the so-called head of the broadcast who sits in the director’s chair in front of the main monitor. The position involves giving directions and making split-second decisions as the game unfolds. Returning in that role this year will be senior Libby Jeans, who continues a successful trend with the production crew that is unique;  every crew director since the broadcast’s inception has been a girl. And, Jeans has a masterful, professional approach that makes sure every member of the crew is on the ball once the game begins.

“Libby will be returning, thankfully for me, since it’s my first year in this position,” Plaster acknowledges. “She’s a great student and knows the equipment probably better than me at this point.”
High school football athletes and coaches are excited about the upcoming season, and like a good defensive stop, everyone is ready to be part of the CRUNCH.
Bill Turner

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