Editorial: Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Frank Vajcner

A lot can happen in five years.

For me, on a personal and professional level, a lot has happened. But I only want to focus on one thing that has happened in those last five years, and that is my tenure here at Friday Night Victors.

There are quite a few readers who know about some of the memorable moments involving me, but not many know about how my time with Chris and Gary began.

So as we close in on another season of high school, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on my five years, and even look ahead to what is to come.

We begin our story back in 2017. At this time, I (literally) was a man with many hats. Not only was I starting my first season on staff as Director of Social Media with Dundee High School Football, but also my third season as an official.

I had known about Friday Night Victors a little bit, as I would read Chris and Gary’s content regarding my alma mater Ida, but I was nothing more than an occasional reader. Once I was at Dundee, I began to read their content much more.

For those who don’t remember, I started doing “First On The Field” videos on Facebook during my time at Dundee. It was here where Chris and Gary discovered me. At the time, my goal was to provide fans with some in-depth content before games, but I never thought it would lead to where I am today.

As Dundee’s season ended, I became a playoff contributor for the blog. My first official post was a preview for Ida vs Detroit Denby. I spent a rainy night at Detroit Mumford covering the Blue Streaks pulling out their first playoff win on the road since 1990. The following week took me up to Algonac where Ida would drop a close one.

I would spend the next week at Madison Heights Madison, where SMCC lost a heartbreaker. But it was there where I could tell something special was brewing with the Falcons.

2018 was where I officially came on full time with Chris and Gary. In addition to my responsibilities with Dundee, I would also be on the beat for Ida, as well as Whiteford and Summerfield. The latter two were officially the new kids on the blog.

The preseason would see the debut of my Schedule Analysis Series, as well as my Guide to Best Games.

I spent Week 1 covering Dundee pulling out a thrilling win over Ann Arbor Huron on a Thursday, and Whiteford getting Jason Mensing his 100th career win on that Friday. Week 2 would take me up to Stockbridge with Dundee, and then to the friendly confines of Navarre Field for a thriller between Milan and SMCC.

Playoff time would take me to Ida in the first round where the Blue Streaks would stomp Dearborn Heights Robichaud. The second round took me out to Reading for what I felt was the de facto Division 8 State Championship between Whiteford and Reading. The Rangers would prevail 28-6 in a mud bowl.

I would also venture further west to Cassopolis in the Regional round where SMCC would lose on a goal-line stand.

2019 was where things began to change. I was not able to cover any other games outside of Dundee until Week 5, thanks to Mother Nature postponing a few to the following Saturday. I was able to head to the homecoming game for Ida, where unfortunately for me, I got the brunt of the rhubarb from their student section, as none of myself, Chris, or Gary had picked Ida to win.

It was also during this time which I became more involved with the video picks, rotating in with Chris and Gary, plus contributing to a podcast we had started, as well as the radio pregame show for SMCC games.

Playoff time took me somewhere different every week. I would be at Robichaud in the first round where Dundee would drop a heartbreaker. I would then venture to Milan for the second round, where I would get a look at Tristen Hines and Evan Furtney electrifying the home crowd in a blowout of Summit Academy. But it was from the Regional round onward where a certain fanbase would adopt me.

I would cover SMCC’s win over Montrose in the Regional, which may or may not have been aided by Montrose trying to steal an idea from a game in 1988 between Miami and Notre Dame. The following week would take me up to Ypsilanti Lincoln as the Falcons would take on the Onsted Wildcats. This is a game that many will remember because of a certain video that went viral. Thus the Legend of Falcon Frank was born.

Because of said video, then-SMCC Athletic Director Chad Myers was able to get me on the sidelines at Ford Field. I would cover the Falcons bringing home the hardware in a defensive battle over Maple City Glen Lake.

2020 would be where things would change the most. Not only did I add Bedford to teams I cover since I was on staff for basketball there, but my fall plans changed quite a lot. After the season was delayed due to COVID, I had planned on going to whatever our “Game of the Week” would be, and providing my usual updates via social media. 

But my assigners had other ideas, as I would be called upon to wear the stripes on Friday nights. This is where I had to make one change in terms of doing picks, as I would refrain from picking a game I was an official for, just for the sake if integrity.

During the playoffs, I even put on my announcer hat, as I did commentary on the live stream for Ida’s games.

2021 was probably my busiest year between my contributions here, as well as being on an officiating crew full time. I actually ended up officiating the Game of the Week twice, and even got to officiate my first ever playoff game.

Once officiating was complete, I was back to covering games in the playoffs. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the flak I caught for not picking a certain team. But then, said fanbase was the one who had to eat crow. The season would end with me covering Whiteford losing to Hudson in an instant classic in the State Semifinals.

As the 2022 season is dawning, it’s now time for our eyes to focus forward. I’ll still be wearing the stripes on Friday while providing content for you the reader. But as of this writing, there is likely only one week where I will have to refrain from picking a game (I won’t spoil it for you).

Going beyond this season, there has been a lot going on in terms of conference shuffling. Anything that effects the teams on the blog will obviously be discussed. 

And who knows what more could come in the future? I could go on to mention ideas suggested to me, but I think we are all better suited in reflecting on how far we’ve come, while keeping focused on the here and now.

So here’s to another fun and safe season for the players, and many more fun seasons of content from the three of us!

See you on the field!

A Note From Chris: We love having Frank as part of FNV. His passion for high school sports is unrivaled. Whenever we do something here at FNV, Frank is all in. He constantly brings ideas to the table and is trying to improve what we do. I’m not sure if we would have continued on without him here.

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