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EdNC gets in the game: Introducing GametimeNC

For many North Carolinians, sports played an important role in shaping their childhood.

I can still remember a crisp fall day and how it felt to put on football pads for the first time. My nervous energy came from having the first play drawn up where I was supposed to make a brief block and then slip to the right to catch a pass. I also remember playing basketball in middle school. It taught me a lot about how to be a team player. 

My senior year at Hibriten High School, we made an improbable run at the state championship in football, which brought the whole town together. We fell short, and tears were in the eyes of parents and kids alike. More recently, my friends and I drove to Chapel Hill last December to watch Hibriten win their first state football championship. It felt like the whole town had come down to watch Hibriten on a bitterly cold, snowy day.

Sports matter to many students, teachers, parents, and communities across North Carolina.

This year, EducationNC is part of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. We have been looking for projects our users would like to see us adopt, and user testing led to the idea of GameTimeNC. GameTimeNC will be a ten-week experiment testing the appetite and need for coverage of high school sports, which often serve as the thread knitting whole communities together, particularly after disaster strikes. 

EdNC is excited to partner with J. Mike Blake to launch the GameTimeNC prototype.

Blake is an English teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh and a contributor to He covered high school sports for a variety of newspapers in The News & Observer Publishing Company for 10 years, winning 14 N.C. Press Association awards.

When we asked J. Mike Blake to introduce himself to you, here is what he wrote:

“There is nothing more local than high school sports.”

That quote isn’t my own, but it’s one I believe in dearly.

I have seen high school sports bring together all sorts of communities, whether that locality is an entire county, a whole town, or just a string of geographically-connected neighborhoods.

High schools aren’t just for the students.

Sometimes they’re where we vote.

Sometimes they’re where we go to church.

And, as recent storms show, sometimes high schools are our safe place when everything else is thrown into disarray.

No matter which corner of North Carolina you’re from, there’s a high school nearby that can anchor your community and bring together people from different backgrounds.

And that’s why I’m excited to start GameTimeNC.

I’m a native North Carolinian who loves every corner of this great state, and I’ve spent 10 years covering high school sports, always keeping an eye on statewide issues facing our many coaches and athletic directors and working to explain them in-depth.

I’ll bring that to GameTimeNC, a newsletter that will cover the state from Murphy to Manteo (and don’t worry, for those of you who live west of Murphy and east of Manteo, this means you too).

By subscribing to our newsletter, you’ll get my weekly column on statewide trends, top athletic feats from across the state, statewide rankings, and unmatched NCHSAA state championship coverage.

This is only the beginning, and I’m thrilled to watch it grow.

This week, EducationNC is covering the high school women’s golf championship. Next week, when the newsletter formally launches, we will test your appetite for coverage of our student athletes and the issues surrounding them.

We want to explore issues that matter to players, coaches, and families across the state. 

We intend to explore tough questions. Are parents comfortable with their children playing football given the science around concussions? Is the football season too long and does the length impact academics? 

Sometimes sports can tell us something about our communities and the issues they are facing. Some are encouraging the state to bring back 8-on-8 football because their schools are struggling to have enough players to field a team, and they know having a team matters to their community. Should they do it? This issue highlights the declining population of some of our counties and the urban-rural divide. 

We plan to spotlight the story of sports within our communities, too. Entire counties find hope in their football team — towns which suddenly become soccer fanatics as the women’s team makes a run at the state championship. We hope you join our team.

Check out GameTimeNC:

GameTimeNC’s statewide top 25 rankings

R.J. Reynolds High hoping for a “home” game

NCHSAA brackets: 2018 girls tennis playoffs

Connect with us:

Sign up for our email.

Follow us on Twitter. 

Double tap our photos on Instagram.

Let us know what stories we should tell by texting GAMETIME to 73224. Watch this experiment unfold, and let us know what you think. Your opinion matters.


Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.

J. Mike Blake

J. Mike Blake is an English teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh and a contributor to He covered high school sports for a variety of newspapers in The News & Observer Publishing Company for 10 years and won 14 N.C. Press Association awards. He is also the only two-time winner of the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association’s media person of the year award.