Reminiscent of Friday Night Lights, the documentary not the following to series, a close following of the fortunes of East Mississippi Community College, in a small town in the middle of nowhere, as they go for their 3rd straight USJCC national title.
The school appears to be a last chance saloon and for wayward souls ejected from other institutions in order to get their chance to play proper college football alongside some home grown and recruited players. They are being moulded into a team by Head Coach Buddy Stephens and his large team of coaches and others.
The series documents their struggles and progress not just on the field but off it too in their academic struggles, as they can’t play or progress without doing well at their studies too. A twin challenges for the young men.
With just six hour-long episodes in this series it is easily watchable. Episodes one and two follow the same basic format; trials and stresses for the players and staff culminating in the game at the end if the episode. There is nothing like a well made sports documentary to built up tension and play with your emotions and with this group of almost misfit players you are left hoping and wondering whether they can gel together and whether they can commit to their studies alongside.
Impetuousness of youth shown in this program is completely evident. These guys only want to play ball and nothing else. Unfortunately they have to also maintain a decent academic record in order to play ball and to progress into a proper college. It’s always the way, the best players are the ones who struggle the most, mainly because they have gotten away with not doing it for so long but at some point you are hoping for an epiphany and they realise there isn’t another way for them to get to the “big leagues”.
As with any sporting drama there are ups and downs. A 24-game winning streak is hanging over their heads from the start, piling on more pressure. Players come to the fore, players fade, players pick up injuries, studies disappear, players go off the rails. Games are won and games don’t go as planned. Rumour and stories are passed around about other teams leading to hopes raised and dashed.
There is an underlying current of faith and religion throughout this series, whether the players are as invested into this as the coaches is debatable and never really gets explored.
One of the main characters in this story, Ms Wagner who has to try to ensure that these players are as committed to their studies as their football, is at a constant battle with the players. Coaxing, persuading them to see the seriousness of their situation before it’s too late. She really does work as hard as any of the other staff or coaches to get these guys ready for the outside world, to prepare these guys for later life not just football. However, it seems that’s all they are caring about in the most part, football, football, football. Ms Wagner is trying her hardest to keep these guys on track but it’s like herding cats. They just don’t want to be in class.
I really enjoyed this mini series. Entertaining and emotional and a great story. Excellently done and a polished final product.