Americana.

Americana.

That was what I titled the first article I wrote for ThisWeek Community Newspapers 17 years ago and it is appropriate that as I move on to life in Ladera Ranch, Calif., my final article can be headlined the same way.

In that debut piece, I highlighted the magic moments of the opening night of the high school football season and, with a little advice to parents, coaches and athletes, let's close this chapter of my high school sports journalism.

In each of my 17 years of writing, I have hyped the first night of the football season as something more than just another game. Here is a night like no other in the calendar year for everyone involved with or interested in high school sports. There is that unique newness to the first game, and it carries over from the players and coaches to the officials, band members, cheerleaders, drill team and, of course, to the parents and the school community. Who cares what happened last year? It matters not if your team was 0-10 or the state champion, because this is a new team in a new season and hope is at its highest.

If you have the chance, go to a game this weekend and enjoy the special time that is opening night.

Finally, let me give some suggestions to those involved with high school sports. These are just things I have learned in my 68 years. First to parents and fans: Every chance you get, go to a game. If it is your daughter, son, grandson, niece or neighbor, go see them display their talents and cheer them on. Stay positive every time you talk with them and understand that these young people are giving all they have for their school and deserve every cheer they can get. Remember that these days and years are short and need to be savored.

Next to coaches: Always understand how important you are to your students and how you can impact their lives. Sometimes you are with them more than their parents and the responsibility to develop them as outstanding young men and women should be your first responsibility. Learn the game you are coaching to the maximum of your ability and teach it to your students. Strive to make them have the same passion for your sport as you do and you have the chance to be successful. There is no compromising here just dedication.

Lastly to the athletes, whether you're in middle school or high school: Understand that when you put on a uniform that has your school name on it, you represent something very important and you have an obligation to perform to the absolute best of your ability. It matters not that your uniform says Bobcats or Warriors or Bearcats or Hawks or Falcons, this is your school and you should take enormous pride in being its representative.

I have learned so much over the past 17 years, especially from the high school athletes I have interviewed and written about. Reynoldsburg senior hurdler Faith Washington once told me: "Track is just like life. There is a starting line and a finish line." So this is my finish line, and I will leave you with the advice my beloved wife Jeanne gave me before she died: "Never look back and wish it were tomorrow because that will never happen. Look only at today, tomorrow and the future."

High school athletes, tomorrow belongs to you.

Go see a game.