A Buckaroo farewell and a new era
When I left Indiana and headed west to the alien land of Monticello, UT in October 2003, a couple of my life dreams were being realized. I was becoming the manager of a radio station and a sportscaster at the same time.
The First Baptist Church of Monticello went on the air with 103.9 KAAJ-LP FM the previous year and needed someone to take over its operation.
It was an exciting opportunity, and even before I accepted the job and hit the road I knew one of the best ways to connect with the community would be to broadcast local high school sports.
Choosing which team to cover was a no-brainer. Because KAAJ-LP is a low-power station and only reaches Monticello, it would obviously become the radio home of the Buckaroos. So, for the last 16 seasons, KAAJ-LP has been exactly that.
In that time, I have attended only one Monticello High School sports event in the role of spectator – the Bucks’ 32-20 football win over San Juan on October 14, 2003. MHS hasn’t beaten the Broncos on the gridiron since, but that’s another story.
A couple weeks later, after I had obtained some very affordable remote broadcast equipment, we were on the air live for the first time when Monticello beat Whitehorse in the 1A quarterfinals on the MHS football field November 1, 2003.
The following week the Buckaroos beat Duchesne in the 1A semifinals, and we were set for a state championship matchup with the Enterprise Wolves at Southern Utah University. I made the trip to Cedar City and called play-by-play for an exciting but heartbreaking 18-14 loss – the Bucks’ only loss that season.
By the fall of 2004 I was officially “the voice of the Monticello Buckaroos,” and we were in full swing with the sports broadcasts. I had the pleasure of calling an entire season of football with Monticello ultimately winning their most recent football state championship over the Rich Rebels.
In those early years we covered MHS football, baseball, softball, and basketball. When baseball and softball fell out for several seasons, we stuck with football and basketball.
Over the 16 years I called Monticello sports there have been many highs and lows.
I was emotional on the air right along with the players and coaches during the 2004 football state championship, the Dillon Maughan buzzer-beater against Piute in the 2014 state basketball quarterfinals, and the Bucks’ subsequent state championship, also their most recent.
KAAJ-LP rarely missed a game once we began, and I know there have been many appreciative parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends back home listening.
The amount of travel, local support, and effort it took to broadcast Monticello High School sports was astronomical. I am specifically indebted to all the local businesses that made the broadcasts possible with their faithful financial support year in and year out.
Several were with us from start to finish: the Kris Black Agency, Blue Mountain Foods, Hondaland, Main Street Drug & Boutique, Monticello City, Empire Electric, San Juan Health, the San Juan Record, and Wagon Wheel Pizza. Schafer Auto Clinic faithfully serviced the vehicles I drove thousands of miles each season.
I’m also indebted to the numerous board operators who worked in the KAAJ-LP studio while I was at various remote sites calling the games.
In recent seasons, almost exclusively, Michelle Collins gave up many nights of her life for that cause. She received help from Hannah Plemons and John Williams from time to time.
And I owe a huge thank you to all the Monticello High School principals, athletic directors, and coaches who supported and assisted me. Every one of them expressed gratitude for the broadcasts over the years.
2020 has been an absolutely crazy year. I’m guessing none of you need my word on that. Many things about all of our lives have changed and continue to change.
Over the last three years, the Lord has blessed me with a beautiful wife and family. While the great distances of traveling to cover the Buckaroos was do-able as a single man, it has become increasingly taxing as a family man.
My employment role is also in flux. I’ve been with the San Juan Record for almost two and a half years now in addition to my work at KAAJ-LP.
When the Record purchased Redrock 92 in May, I began managing the operation of the station. As we continue to move forward, it’s our intention to cover local sports and broadcast live events on 92.7 FM.
But determining “local” sports for a station that reaches 80,000 people in all four of the Four Corners states is quite a bit more challenging than it was for KAAJ-LP.
Because Redrock 92 (KBDX) is licensed in Blanding, we’ve tentatively decided that we will, to a great extent, be the voice of the San Juan Broncos.
However, the most recent addition to our staff, David Boyle also has play-by-play experience, bringing the possibility of expanded local sports coverage.
Though we may produce live broadcasts for other high schools, including Monticello, these changes have effectively ended my run as the exclusive voice of the Buckaroos on KAAJ-LP.
The MHS game at Kanab on August 14 was the first Buckaroo football game not broadcast on KAAJ-LP in many years. Some of you may have even tuned in looking for the game, and for that I owe an apology.
With the uncertainty of the 2020-21 sports season due to COVID-19 and the late start of sports coverage on Redrock 92 due to delayed studio construction, the lack of publicity regarding the changes to local sports coverage in San Juan County was an oversight on my part.
I will say this though: It has been my distinct pleasure and honor to be the voice of the Buckaroos all these years. I thank all of you for going along for the ride.
And stay tuned… You just might see me at a Monticello sports event in the near future!
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