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Sheldon students keep real variety in sports talk radio.

Byline: Adam Jude The Register-Guard

Joe McCall begins the broadcast calmly, without a touch of flair or drama.

"Hey everybody, welcome to Sheldon sports talk," McCall says.

For regular listeners to sports radio, it seems like just another opening to another show, nothing out of the ordinary, yet something new and refreshing. Turns out, the only thing unusual about this broadcast is the youthfulness of the four hosts.

McCall has teamed with fellow Sheldon High School students Tyler Howard, RJ Dove and Chad Henninger to produce a daily sports talk show on KRVM (91.9 FM), a program that attempts to mimic the students' favorite professional broadcasts with local and national sports topics.

"A lot of people like our show, and we like them listening," Dove said.

The show airs Monday through Friday from noon to 12:30 p.m., originating out of the KRVM studios, located near the back parking lot at the high school.

McCall, Howard and Dove, all sophomores, and Henninger, a freshman, are released for lunch from their second-period class at 11:49 p.m., quickly grab a bite to eat, then rush to the radio station to organize the day's topic before entering the studio, where they put on headphones and huddle around three microphones.

Even during breaks in the show, when prearranged music is played, there's hardly a moment for the boys to catch their breath. Because when they're not talking sports ... they're talking sports.

"It's great," said McCall, who operates the production board during the show. "I like talking sports with buddies. We do it anyway, so why not do it on the air?"

Having taken a introductory broadcasting class through station manager Carl Sundberg last year, McCall provided the play-by-play for the station's radio broadcasts of Sheldon football games in the fall. He also announces Sheldon boys and girls basketball games on KRVM's sister station (1280 AM).

McCall and his friends found themselves hanging around the station during lunch, talking sports, of course, so Sundberg and program manager Morgan Smith opted to give them an official show.

"These kids are so incredibly mature," Sundberg said. "They're very talented and it's very exciting to give them the opportunity. They could probably dive into a barrel with anyone in sports and hold their own."

Despite a few bumps in the road when the show first aired in November - some listeners didn't like the change, preferring the traditional music format - the Sheldon amateurs have found a rhythm.

"You just have to be calm and go with what everyone else is talking about," said Henninger, the only member of the talk-show team without official broadcast training.

"I started (broadcasting) last year, and it was pretty nerve-racking," McCall said.

"I was a little nervous, also," Dove said. "But I guess we got comfortable with it, and here we are now."

As part of a generation that was bred on the in-your-face catch phrases (`boo-yah!') during nightly "SportsCenter" telecasts on ESPN, the Sheldon quartet presents a straightforward, easygoing attitude to its sports analysis.

"The most important thing is they come in so well-prepared," Smith said. "It's not a class for them - it's who they are. It's a programmer's dream. That's what good radio is."

Make no mistake, these young broadcasters aren't perfect - and they don't pretend to be. But they do offer some original thoughts, and aren't afraid to express an opinion, even if it means disagreeing with someone else in the room.

Asked for a prediction of the NFL wild-card playoff game between Seattle and St. Louis last week, Henninger stuck with the Northwest favorite.

"This is playoff time, and the best team will show up," he said on air.

"The Seahawks are so lucky they're in the NFC and even luckier they're in the NFC West," Howard said. "I think St. Louis is going to win. They've beaten them two straight times and they've got the momentum."

While providing the medium for the students to voice their talents, Sundberg and KRVM have also inspired their individual aspirations.

And the boys are dreaming big, hoping to become the next Dan Patrick or Jerry Allen.

"I'd like to maybe be a `SportsCenter' anchor or have a show like `I, Max' or something," McCall said. "Or maybe even be a sports guy for one of the local news stations or a sportswriter for The Register-Guard."

Not a bad idea.

"A couple of them mentioned that they want to pursue this as a career, and there's no reason all of them can't do it," Smith said. "The best thing about this job is seeing those kids love what they do. I'm so proud of them."

McCall ends the show as smoothly as he began it, nothing too brash or outlandish, but just enough to make the listener return for more lunchtime banter.

"Thank you for listening to Sheldon sports talk. Tomorrow's show includes more on the Civil War in basketball and the NFL playoffs. Now we'll get back to the music on KRVM."


Radio hosts (from left) Tyler Howard, Chad Henninger, RJ Dove and Joe McCall broadcast from noon to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays at Sheldon High School.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Four fresh voices in sports analysis find a platform for their opinions at KRVM on weekday afternoons
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 11, 2005
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