All-out ‘blitz’ marks opening of season

One of the credos of the newspaper industry is to “get through the J months, and then something magical happens in the fall.”

Or so Circulation Manager Dan Slep, whose family’s Mirror roots date back to 1874, has long maintained.

Vacation season is over, the oppressive heat of August (or in our case, torrential rain), will soon give way to the refreshing chill of the fall air, and the kids (or grandkids) are back in school.

With all of that, football season arrives with more than a footnote.

We welcome football because it brings with it passionate readership, be it eager to absorb coverage of Penn State, the Steelers, Pitt, high school or all of the above.

For the last seven years, we’ve launched football season with our “Blitz,” magazine, a beautiful glossy that highlights 33 high school teams with features and scouting reports and packs pictures, rosters, schedules and conference outlooks into 164 pages.

It’s an across-the-board cooperative effort between our sports, advertising and circulation departments, and it’s available on newsstands.

Anyone who picks it up will be impressed.

While “Blitz” is a separate publication, our traditional football preview section will be published Wednesday and included with your Mirror.

The football “tab” has updated lineup projections, photos of returning lettermen and an overview of what to expect for the 2019 season.

It also goes back more than 40 years to the late 1970s when we covered fewer schools and focused mainly on Blair County.

The cover typically featured a Tom Gibb cartoon in which, as one example, he’d have the mascot from each school placed in a hot-air balloon ready to launch.

And, as those who appreciated him the most (like me) can attest, part of the brilliant mastery of Gibb’s cartoons was that, probably unintentionally, many of his subjects looked like him.

As the years have passed and our regional footprint has mushroomed, the football tab expanded accordingly, and Blitz was eventually born.

Credit Buck Frank and Michael Boytim of our sports department for creating and sustaining a product that consistently has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Press Association.

Friday nights in the fall require an all-hands-on-deck approach, similar to the May and November elections — except in sports it’s 12 straight weeks until a playoff field pares down the participating teams.

This year, the high school season opens earlier than ever as the curtain goes up this Friday — Aug. 23, which is almost ridiculous considering the seventh game of the season will be played in the first weekend of October.

It’s designed to get the PIAA finals over before Santa Claus cannonballs down the chimney, and that’s understandable, too.

Either way, the Mirror will have it all covered for you.

We are making some changes in the way we present stories, moving from what we’ve always done to a quick-hitting format that we hope and think you will enjoy. You’ll read more about those tweaks later this week in the sports section.

In the meantime, good luck to your favorite team, and let the magic begin.

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