COVID kept radio crew, Burnett home for Lions-Rangers game
The replacements surrounding the tradition-rich Brownwood Lions’ football program all succeeded with winning colors Friday night.
COVID-19 sidelined Brownwood’s head coach and entire four-person radio crew, including legendary broadcaster Dallas Huston, for Friday’s high school game against the Midland Greenwood Rangers. On the field, defensive coordinator David Jones filled in for missing head coach Sammy Burnett, and the Lions never trailed in beating the Rangers 35-15.
“Coach Jones did a fine job,” said Burnett, who watched a livestream of Friday’s game. “He’s an experienced coach, and he knows what he’s doing. I had no concerns with Coach Jones because I trust him wholeheartedly. He’s very loyal.”
Huston, who has missed only “a handful of games” in his 58 years of broadcasting Brownwood football games, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and immediately entered a 10-day quarantine. His wife, Linda, who serves as spotter for the radio crew, also tested positive.
Carl Wayne, the color analyst for the games broadcast on KOXE-FM radio, also tested positive Tuesday and went into quarantine. Michael Richardson, the radio crew’s sideline reporter, was quarantined because he had been exposed to the other radio crew members.
By Thursday, local health officials placed Burnett in quarantine since he was exposed to Wayne and Dallas Huston during interviews about the football team.
Randy Turner, a veteran radio announcer, and Scott McDonald, who has assisted Huston in broadcasting Brownwood baseball games and Howard Payne University basketball games, filled in as the radio broadcast team during Friday’s Greenwood-Brownwood game.
“I listened to the first half on the radio and watched the livestream of the second half,” Huston said. “Randy and Scott did fine. That was a tough situation for them to be in. They didn’t have much preparation time. I’m proud of them.”
Huston also said he respected Burnett “for standing up and not taking a chance on exposing any of his assistant coaches or players. He doesn’t have it (COVID-19), and he feels fine. But he realized that he had been exposed and the possibility of spreading it. I’m sure that’s one of the hardest things for a coach to do.”
Huston said his 10-day quarantine ends Tuesday, and he could return for this Friday’s home game against China Spring. But he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I think I’ll be back this Friday, but I’m not on an ego trip,” Huston said. “I have to get to feeling a lot better before I go back. I have to get past the breathing problems. You know I’m not ironman.”
Some might argue that Huston is an ironman.
He joined the Brownwood football broadcast team in 1963 and has called or helped call six of the seven state championship games the Lions won under legendary coach Gordon Wood, who won 394 games at the Central Texas school between 1960 and 1985. Friday’s miss may require a second hand to count Huston’s total absences in 58 seasons.
“In the 1990s, I took off two games to be with my son when he was in high school,” Huston said. “Illness got me two or three other times, so I’ve missed a handful of games through the years but not a lot.
“I’ve been fortunate in that when I’ve gotten really sick, it has been during the offseason or during baseball or basketball season most of the time.”
Huston said it’s “a bunch of bull” that some people still don’t believe the COVID-19 pandemic is real. He first began feeling sick while calling Brownwood’s Aug. 28 season opener at Lampasas in a 5x5-foot radio booth with only one air-conditioning window unit for a two-story press box.
“In the second half, I started walking out in the hallway whenever I could where the A/C unit is to get some air,” Huston said. “I told Linda, ‘I’m burning up. I can’t breathe. I think I’m going to pass out.’ She got some water rags for my face.”
Huston experienced fever, a cough and continued breathing problems leading up to his Tuesday COVID-19 test.
“This is real and it’s dangerous. People ought to be concerned,” Huston said of the pandemic. “Just talking about the football team, some people say wearing a mask and social distancing at ballgames is difficult. But if they truly care about the kids, the coaches and the community, they can sacrifice a little comfort and not spread this junk.”
Burnett said while working from home, he can do everything he normally does in evaluating video and game planning.
“I just can’t go to the practices or the game,” the coach said. “It was frustrating not to be able to communicate with the other coaches during the game Friday. We’re going to see if there’s a way we can talk next week -- even if we have a phone call going for the entire game.”
Huston was saddened that his positive test helped lead to Burnett’s quarantine, which is expected to force the coach to miss this week’s China Spring game.
“I’m sick about Sammy,” Huston said. “I’ve done everything in my power to stay away from others since Saturday. The only place we’ve been is the parking lot at the doctor’s office to get tested and to get a shot. I don’t mind taking the blame, but I sincerely hope I haven’t spread it to anyone else.
“It kills me to think that any of this has been caused by me.”
Football aside, Huston’s friends are hoping the 78-year-old broadcaster and Baptist minister regains his health.
“That’s why I’m not rushing to get back. I’m old and worn out,” Huston said. “They say the four biggest risk groups are older people, people with heart disease, diabetics and those with breathing problems. I’m 4-for-4 in those risk groups.”
Another storyline Friday involved Jones’s family. In addition to filling in for Burnett as head coach, Jones’s son, sophomore son Chance Jones, made his first varsity start at quarterback. Chance Jones passed for 75 yards and a 10-yard touchdown to Jason Jackson, and the young quarterback also ran 3 yards for another score.