Thirteen years ago around this time of year, I was covering my first high school football game for this newspaper when I panicked.

I had forgotten a memory card for a camera to shoot photos of the Wagner vs. Platte-Geddes/Dakota Christian game I was assigned to cover that Friday night. All I had to remember was a notepad, camera and a card. Simple, and I blew it.

There was no time to drive more than an hour back to Mitchell. Kickoff was in five minutes.

Luckily, a local woman saw me rifling through my camera bag and saved my butt. She had an extra card. I learned quickly, after moving from Minnesota, that South Dakotans can be some of the nicest humans.

I was a newbie. A mistake-prone young reporter. But what I also learned quickly is that I landed in an awesome place. Not only because a local photographer would swoop in to help me, but because folks here really, really love high school sports.

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That applies still, 13 years later. Prep sports is a huge topic for our readers.

Change is inevitable but high school sports are a constant. A new school year means new hope in each sport. And, for our newspaper, it brings us the ability to tell the stories of local athletes, coaches and teams.

I like to think we’re pretty good at it, too. We have a large sports staff that makes their presence known in the region, not only Mitchell but the surrounding communities that thrive on the success of their town teams.

This year, though, has been even more exciting for the work we’re doing to cover prep sports. Our company has made a significant investment in equipment to allow us to live stream games in extremely high quality. For the past four weeks, we’ve marched around eastern South Dakota.

We’ve made stops in Parkston, Wessington Springs, Chamberlain and Mount Vernon with a mountain of equipment to stream and call high school football games. Have you heard of it? It’s called the Gridiron Spotlight, and this Friday we’ll be in Platte for another game.

Yes, we do realize others have been and continue to live stream games as well. Our stream is a bit different -- our sports staff is putting in hours to study the game, meet the players and coaches ahead of the matchup we feature and we call the game live, no different than a college or professional game you watch over the weekend. Not only that, but the picture in our stream is impressively clear. No more watching little dots glide up and down, across the field.

Watching these streams each Friday night is pretty fun for the people who’ve logged on. Count me as one of those viewers. And it comes with no additional cost, just another benefit for our members. If you’re not a member, we’re running a really good deal: Three months of digital membership (includes Friday night football live streams) for 99 cents a month. Oh, and by the way, we’ll be at high school basketball games this winter as well.

I’ve always been grateful for the people who’ve appreciated our investment in covering high school sports. Well before my time at this newspaper, our coverage region has been 17 counties in South Dakota, more than 30 high schools and literally thousands of young athletes. We’ve even broken the geographic region barrier down through our digital emphasis, and we’re willing to tell any great story South Dakota sports have to offer.

Knowing the abilities of our staff and the endless possibilities we have is really quite remarkable. There are so many ways we can report on high school sports beyond just the older, traditional story-photo route.

The only problem is now we have a little more equipment we have to haul along.