Father-daughter duo broadcasts Arkansas high school football
FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — In the midst of calling play-by-play for Northside football games, Buzz Sawyer will periodically throw it over to the reporter stationed on the Grizzlies’ sideline.
That sideline reporter will offer updates on such events as injuries or a word of advice from a coach to a player prior to a big play.
The reporter is someone Buzz Sawyer knows very well. It happens to be none other than his daughter, Sarah Sawyer.
Sarah Sawyer is in her first year as the sideline reporter for the Grizzlies’ revamped broadcast, the Southwest Times Record reported. Not only are the games still aired over the radio, those are also being simulcast over Northside’s YouTube channel, GrizzlyTV.
And her father is more than happy to have his daughter on board.
“The only thing that could have gotten better was having my daughter be a part of it now,” Buzz Sawyer said. “Once they grow up, you don’t get to see them near as much as you used to, so this guarantees me every Friday night we get to spend four hours together, so it’s going to be a great opportunity for me.”
For Sarah, getting to broadcast from the sidelines during Grizzly games is a way of fulfilling an ambition she had when she was younger.
“I actually told my dad for years how much I wanted to be a sideline reporter. ... I probably should have done that when I went to college but I didn’t,” Sarah Sawyer said. “I did nutrition, which is also my passion, so outside of nutrition, I love broadcast journalism.
“I think it’s great, especially football, like I don’t know that I would love a bunch of other sports but I love football, and to do it with my dad and to have the connection there, it couldn’t be any better so it was fun.”
When Buzz Sawyer, who attended Northside in the mid 1970s and played wide receiver and placekicker for the Grizzlies, originally took over the play-by-play duties two years ago, he wanted Sarah to join him.
“I asked her for the last couple of years, ‘What we need is a sideline reporter,’” Buzz Sawyer said. “I thought she would be perfect for that because she’s not bashful, she loves sports and I said, ‘We can figure that out.’
“So I talked to our radio station, Life 98.7 (FM), about incorporating the sideline reporter. And this year, they bought the equipment, they made the investment to do it and I asked Sarah and she made the commitment.”
Sarah Sawyer made her debut on the Grizzlies’ broadcast team on Aug. 24, when Northside opened its season with a 69-0 win at home against Rogers Heritage.
“She had her first game (in the season opener) against Rogers Heritage and she was by far better than any of us at what we do, so it turned out great,” Buzz Sawyer said.
Ironically, Sarah was instrumental in getting her father involved in broadcasting games for the radio.
But not Northside. Instead, it was Southside, where Sarah attended school and eventually graduated in 2001.
“My daughter knows Keith Evans, the play-by-play guy for Southside and has done it for about 15 years,” Buzz Sawyer said. “His partner was Steve Rinke (who passed away from a heart attack in 2011) and when he passed away, it was about a couple of months before football season.
“Sarah, who went to the same church with Keith Evans, they were eating lunch after church and Keith was talking about having to find somebody to help him. And so Sarah volunteered me.”
But even though his daughter attended Southside, Buzz Sawyer was still Northside to the core and originally declined the offer. Sarah, however, was persistent.
“When she called and asked me, I said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Buzz said. “I’m a Northside guy, I can’t do it, broadcasting for Southside, although I knew Keith Evans very well.
“So finally she said for me just to do it, do it for a couple of games until (Evans) found somebody, and that turned into six years. I just had a great time, saw some really good football games and just had a blast with Keith. But it was all because of my daughter volunteering me to do it with him.”
The Northside play-by-play job opened up prior to the 2016 season when Matt Blaylock, who had been doing the games for nearly 15 years, took over the public-address announcing duties for the home games.
“When Northside called, Matt Blaylock had done it for years and when Matt got the PA job after Darren (McKinney, who took over as the athletics director for Fort Smith Public Schools), Matt called me and asked if I would be interested in doing the broadcasts for Northside,” Buzz said.
“This is my home. This is where I belong and not saying I felt weird being at Southside because my kids went to Southside and I had a really, really great experience working with Keith Evans, who’s probably one of the best play-by-play guys that I’ve ever been around and I learned a lot from him.”
Then, eventually, Buzz worked to get his daughter on board. Just like her father was at first when he did Southside games, Sarah was hesitant about calling games for the rival school.
But she is enjoying it now.
“It’s great; they’re a good football team, it’s fun to watch good football and I don’t have any weirdness against Northside,” Sarah said. “I went to Southside but that was 17 years ago, so it’s been a while.”
The same thing happened in college, when Sarah went to the University of Central Arkansas.
At the time, UCA’s biggest rival was Arkansas Tech, where Buzz attended and played football. His partner in the radio booth, Jeff Farris, was a teammate of Buzz’s at Tech. But Buzz said he enjoyed going to games at UCA, where Sarah was a cheerleader.
Both father and daughter are very active with other interests.
Buzz has owned a construction company since 1990, while Sarah works in the outpatient nutrition department at Sparks Hospital. She also owns a nutrition meal prep company called Perky Pantry.
On Friday nights though during the fall, they will be lending their voices for several hours to chronicle the gridiron exploits of the Grizzlies, who currently are 3-0 on the season heading into their 7A-Central opener this week at Bryant.
“Honestly, I think everyone thinks it’s really cool,” Sarah Sawyer said. “I mean the fact that it’s father-daughter and we’re doing the broadcast together, and how many people can say they get to do that?
Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/