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Football Fridays to be hard fought -- on TV

KDLH-TV 3's Chris Earl and sidekick Chris Long leave it all on the set during Friday Night Lights, a prep football highlight show they hammer out following the station's regular 10 p.m. broadcast.

"Chris and I have really hit a stride with high school football, both in the meat of it and in style," said Earl, sports director and senior anchor of the Twin Ports' hardest-working broadcast sports team. "We really have it down to a science. Chris and I are at a point where we can hit 11, 12 games on a Friday and do the hardest thing: quantity and quality. That is hard to do, but, somehow, things usually work out. Friday nights are crazy but we have a passion for them."

Redheads Chris & Chris have their competitors' attention. KBJR 6 and WDIO 10/13 offer competing Friday prep sports highlight shows, and both station's sports desks give viewers quality content while attending fewer games.

KBJR actually had a highlight show long before KDLH and WDIO.

News 6 Sports begins its Football Friday package during its 6 p.m. broadcast, when it regularly broadcasts live from Public School Stadium during the first half of double-headers and reports scores and highlights from afternoon games. Sports director and anchor Tom Hansen says 6's content focus is quality highlights and getting it on the air first.

Indeed, KBJR does get its highlights on the air ahead of its competition, at 9 p.m. on its UPN9 flagship station. Then, News 6 Sports packages the highlights in a quick-hitting Sports Friday show during its regular 10 p.m. sports broadcast.

"It's all about presentation, and I'm not sure if the other stations are as committed to the early show as we are," Hansen said.

KBJR gets some of its content from Range 11, which is able to shoot Iron Range games deep into the second half before transmitting highlights back to Duluth.

"We have a photographer and editing equipment at the Mesabi Daily newsroom as part of our working relationships with Murphy McGinnis Media," Hansen said.

WDIO's Prep Sports Extra airs live on Fridays at 10:30 p.m.

"We prefer quality over quantity," sports assistant Erik Osberg said. "If it means staying at a game to get better coverage, we'll stick around longer."

Earl said KDLH presents its highlights in a logical fashion, by conference, and "not just randomly going from, say, Nashwauk to Grand Marais to Maple to, oh, Cloquet."

"We try to make the show very easy to digest, but also entertaining," said Earl.

Between the lines

Three-time defending Section 7AA girl's soccer champion Duluth East has no shortage of experienced talent returning this fall. The Greyhounds finished third at state a year ago.

Back to lead the Greyhounds are a pair of big-time seniors, keeper Kari Stellmaker and defender Karen Carr. Juniors Cassy Nelson, Emily Zobel, Tara Wegehaupt and Liisa Harkins are among the best underclassmen in the state.

The Greyhounds will open the season next Friday and Saturday by hosting the Duluth East Invitational at Ordean Stadium. Joining them in the field are Woodbury, Eden Prairie, Cretin-Durham Hall, all top large-school teams statewide.

• Former minor league sports executive Steve Jezierski's thoughts after attending the Duluth Huskies' final home game in 2003:

"Everything I say is based on one game. That is not fair to the Huskies. What they did do from a game operations standpoint was done well. I thought the PA announcer was very good. The music was fitting for the crowd. The first thing I noticed was the new sound system. The sound is pivotal to game operations. Wade Stadium was in great shape, looking beautiful and clean. Maybe it was because it was the last game, and because they had a number of giveaways, but I expected more from the entertainment between innings. There was nothing that made my kids say, 'This is a lot of fun.'

"It is difficult to know if they will draw any better next year. Group sales are a staple to ticket sales. However, in some markets, teams practically give the group tickets away. They make the mistake of selling 'discounted tickets' as opposed to selling the event and everything that goes with it. Groups need to be sold as 'your organization's special night.' Some people talk about how the attendance improved as the season went on. Well, that should be true every year and in practically every market. Group sales can lift your early season attendance, and improve the slow days of the week. Spending significant time on group sales is very important. Corporate sales should be interesting for the second year. This is when Craig (Smith, general manager) and his staff will find out what kind of impact their product has had on the members of the corporate community. It is important to not only be able to tell the corporate people what was accomplished in the first season, but 'how we intend to do even better in year two.'

"I liked very much the sincerity of the owner when he spoke to the crowd. I don't think he should have been too quick to say he hopes the players come back next year. Having a year under their belt will allow them to bring in better talent next year. I thought the fireworks were great."

• Rick Rickert leaves Saturday for Nova Mesto, Slovenia, where he is scheduled to play up to 70 games for Krka. But the former Duluth East and Gophers star likely won't be overseas too long. It's a good bet that the Minnesota Timberwolves will bring the 6-foot-11 perimeter scorer back to the states sometime early in 2004, if not earlier should the offense need more offense or if the roster thins because of injury or trades.

"Even though it's not the NBA, Rick's very upbeat about going to Slovenia," Rickert's mother Sue said Thursday. "He gets to develop his game and see Europe, and it's quite an opportunity for a 20-year-old."

Rest assured, Rickert fans: The Rick has a future in the NBA. He's not yet ready for the NBA, but will be sooner than later.

Howie Hanson writes a regular sports column for Duluth Budgeteer News. He can be reached at 624-7495 or by e-mail at Duluth@aol.com.

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