RED LODGE — Most high school fans don’t think about the press box when attending sports events. But that's where students and staff in Red Lodge are making sure athletics and academics complement each other.
“Whenever they get a sack on defense, you hit (the) sack (button),” junior Jonathan Stewart explained to MTN Sports in the press box while demonstrating how to run the Rams' outdoor video board.
Stewart is on one of the Red Lodge students who helps operate the giant screen on football game days in a press box that sits only about 100 yards from the classroom where content is created.
Karsen Roberts is in a unique situation. He's a senior guard and middle linebacker on this year's undefeated football squad who also enjoys creating video moments for both players and fans to enjoy.
“This is what we play when we’re walking out, so this will be up as we’re walking out onto the field," Roberts explains while sitting in a classroom filled with computers. "... and this is our song.
“I take the pictures that Colleen Vomund has taken — I just take them from her website, like five or six seconds (long for each head shot) — and I just put some music over it that the team votes on. It has to be instrumental (music) because they’re calling our names as we do this,” Roberts says of the P.A. announcer introducing players after pre-game warm-ups.
The Rams beat Thompson Falls 42-0 in Saturday's playoff opener and host Three Forks in this weekend's quarterfinals Saturday at 1 p.m.
Activities director Adam White taught the sports marketing class where video board content is produced. One of his biggest benefits now is that the game day workload doesn’t fall entirely into his lap.
“We had a national champion video production team last year," White acknowledged. "Mrs. (Theresa) Reimer does a great job and she’d be the first to tell you just give the kids the tools they need and they go to work.”
The thing is, this opportunity doesn’t seem like work to students.
“The production of it, like IT, I like doing that stuff," Steward said. "Certain clips have different color codes. Yellow is like when they have a great play, there’s a great pass (button), there’s a first down (button).”
White appreciates that there is also next level incentive for his students whether in college or the job market.
"We get a guy or two that runs the board for us then goes to an MSU or to Missoula, (and) they have a board similar. Showing up with that (experience), ‘hey, I already know how to do this’ is a perfect work study type job for them.”
And there’s more, even for students not necessarily athletic-minded.
“The kids are going out into the community, too, and approaching sponsors asking if they can produce a commercial for them,” White said.
The video board is also an attention-grabber for visiting teams aside from entertains hometown fans and firing up players like Roberts, who carries a unique perspective as a graduating senior.
“Me personally, being in the game while I’m running out of the tunnel and I get to see something that I made up on the board — my picture, or Thomas’s picture or anybody’s picture — it’s just cool to see," he said, "... because I’m doing something for Red Lodge and it’s an idea they can carry on in the future.”