TYLER — The high school football season has not started but tailgate parties have already begun.

The second “The Zone Magazine Tailgate Photo Shoot” was held on Monday at the new Tyler High School indoor athletic and music facility with 38 schools in attendance. The first photo shoot at Longview’s Lobo Coliseum back on June 29 had 28 schools.

The full-color glossy magazine is 148 pages and put together by the sports departments of the the Longview News-Journal and Tyler Morning Telegraph. It will feature photos of the teams, schedules, rankings, predictions, stats, records and the 2021 East Texas Dream Team.

“I see a lot of cool jerseys, a lot of cool jerseys here,” said Braeden Wade of two-time defending state champion Carthage. “We are trying to live life one more time in high school before we go into the real world. It’s so special now. We took it for granted. Now, we have one more shot and we are taking advantage of it. Every day, summer workouts are hard. It ain’t easy, but we are grinding.”

Rusk Eagles head football coach Thomas Sitton said the Zone Magazine photo shoot is when it starts to sink in the season is almost here.

“This (Zone Magazine football shoot) every year, you really start to get that feeling of Friday Night Football and there’s nothing better,” Sitton said. “We’ve got a great senior group and we are so excited and so blessed we get to play football in East Texas where it means so much and the kids learn so much from the game.”

The student-athletes had photos taken by award-winning photographers Les Hassell and Michael Cavazos who shoot for ETX View Magazine, the Longview News-Journal and other M. Roberts Media publications in East Texas. Hassell shot the cover of the 2021 Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine.

M. Roberts Media and Tyler Junior College photographer Michel Alfaro also had a station set up to shoot. Jessica Payne of the Tyler Morning Telegraph was at the Longview shoot.

Outside, there was the CHRISTUS Mobile Athletic Training Room where players were posing from CHRISTUS Health and they received special Zone Magazine towels from CHRISTUS.

Peters Chevrolet, Buick, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat had trucks at both photo shoots and two of the favorites in Tyler were a new Jeep and BMW to pose with as well. The players received metal water bottles with The Zone engraving.

“We’re worked extremely hard in the offseason,” said Carthage offensive lineman Zackary Carlisle. “The conditioning, the weightlifting. ...it’s great. We want to go out state champs.”

Whitehouse senior defensive back and running back Dominic Rayford said he was pleased the newspapers held the event as they did not experience it last year.

“This is great, we didn’t really get a chance to do anything like this last year because of COVID,” Rayford said. “We brought the juniors this year so they can experience and it’s great. We get a chance to play a full year.”

Whitehouse senior safety Jayden Brandon wears No. 5, the same number Patrick Mahomes II wore when he was on the cover of the pre-season edition.

“I’ve been wearing this number a couple years,” Brandon said with a smile. “We’ve been working really hard and I am expecting us to do good things this year.”

Mahomes was a quarterback at Whitehouse, later Texas Tech and now is a NFL and Super Bowl MVP with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Josh McCown went to Jacksonville ISD and played quarterback in the NFL for 17 years, most recently a playoff game for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. He was enjoying the photo shoot with other parents.

He was also pleased to see an event for the kids.

“I think it’s great, not only to be together with their teammates but to see other kids around East Texas,” said McCown. “Some of them will play together in college someday, you never know. It’s a special environment for them. It speaks to the communities in East Texas and how much we care about football and team sports.

“For them to be out here today is another highlight of those things. Hopefully the kids are having fun. They are throwing on the uniform for the first time this year and lets you know it’s right around the corner,” McCown continued. “So much good comes from these things, so we are so thankful for the media and everyone who put this on and put this thing together.”

Jordan Sherrod, Kyle Daniel, Brandon Ogden, Thomas Bingham and John Anderson worked on videos for the shoots and the cover shoot.

Sports Editors Jack Stallard (Longview) and Phil Hicks (Tyler) led the coordination of the photo shoots with the help of coaches at Longview and Tyler.

Note: The Zone magazine will be delivered free on Aug. 22 in the Tyler Morning Telegraph. There is also a digital edition available to digital subscribers. For more information on the Zone subscriptions specials, call Steven Briggs at 903-237-7768 or email sbriggs@news-journal.com.

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