Radio sports broadcaster Hal Epperson is still excited about Galax High School’s December 2015 state football championship win.
The team had started out the season 1-4 but then ran off 10 straight wins, including five in the state playoffs.
In that championship game, Galax led 7-0 for most of the game against Riverheads, from Staunton, Virginia, a team that had averaged about 40 points per game.
“It got down to the last, final play,” he said, when Riverheads scored a touchdown and went for a two-point conversion instead of an extra point. Galax stopped two-point try.
The 27-year-old Dobson resident ran down to the field and grabbed the coach for a quick interview.
“You could hear the emotion in his voice,” recalled Epperson, whose animated retelling of pivotal moments in the game portrayed a man who loves his work.
“They make it so exciting, so exhilarating to be out there and call these games.”
Epperson and his father, Kelly Epperson, were recently awarded the 2015 Outstanding Sport Coverage award from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters for the broadcast.
Hal Epperson said he’s excited about that, too.
“What an honor,” he said. “After all the hard work, all the long hours, the preparation and organization that goes into having a good broadcast, it’s just a big reward to get. It means a lot.”
It’s not the first for the Epperson duo, who were also earned the same award in 2012.
And last year, the Epperson family was inducted into the Greater Mount Airy Sport Hall of Fame.
All in the family
The award this year is an indicator that a man born into a well-established radio legacy is coming into his own.
His grandfather, Ralph Epperson, launched WPAQ Radio, 740 AM, in Mount Airy in 1948 and was inducted into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
The station, now run by Ralph’s son Kelly, endures as an integral part of the Surry County community with national prominence.
The family business includes WSYD out of the Mount Airy station and WBRF and WCGX in Galax, Virginia.
Hal Epperson never resisted the call.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” he said. “This has been a dream of mine, to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. It’s just always been in my blood.”
He remembered visiting the station as a three-year-old, “cutting spots” for a produce company.
“My dad had me on there saying ‘We’re splittin’ toast wide open,’ or, ‘We’ve got watermelon big as tractor wheels,’” he said.
When slightly older, he would run around the yard playing football by himself, pretending he was calling a real game.
A 2007 graduate of Mount Airy High School, Epperson went on to study audio production and broadcasting at Liberty University, graduating in 2011.
He’s been calling games ever since, baseball and basketball in Mount Airy, and football, basketball and baseball in Galax.
It’s still a family affair, with Hal Epperson now more likely to pull his father on the air with him.
“I love doing games with dad,” he said. “We’ve been working together for so long, we just bounce off each others’ energy.”
Typically, Kelly Epperson will provide color commentary while Hal Epperson calls the play-by-play.
“We’ll just have a good time with it,” Hal Epperson said.
Behind the microphone
An exciting game doesn’t guarantee a good broadcast.
“I think you’ve got to have a good presentation, a good recording, good sound effects,” said Epperson, who before each game and season, studies player statistics and histories of match-ups, as well as verbiage.
He also has a spotting chart and reference material on hand during a broadcast. But when the broadcast goes live, instinct kicks in.
“Then you just call the ball games,” he said.
Epperson has a strong sense of the role local sports plays in galvanizing a community, and how radio can serve as the glue that binds it.
The state championship game, which was played in Salem, Virginia, was broadcast live for a packed house at the Rex Theater in Galax.
“For the ones that can’t get out there, they really appreciate it,” Epperson said, which makes the quality of his broadcast important.
“It’s exciting and you want to portray that to the audience, but you don’t want to just yell,” he explained. “I feel the excitement and I guess they can hear it in my voice.”
Reach Terri Flagg 415-4734.