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High school sports shine on 'State Champs'

Cameraman Jonathon Kidd shoots Host Lorne Plant during his show on May 31 at Orion’s Powerhouse Gym. State Champs did a story on the gym because of its NxT program and how it prevents injuries for high school athletes. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
June 13, 2012 - By Gabriel Ouzounian

Review Co-Editor

The crowd at any Dragons football game will show that Orion is a sport town, especially when it comes to high school athletics.

Now, thanks to the crew of Troy-based sports show "State Champs," Orion sporting events may begin turning up on state-wide television sets. The show recently focused on the Orion Powerhouse Gym and was also present during a recent letter of intent signing featuring senior basketball player Brad Watterworth.

The show, which airs Sundays on CW50 at 11:30 a.m. during the high school sports season, covers most sports in the south-east Michigan and has since 2002 when it debuted. The show saw initial success but in 2007 the Fred McLeod (now a Cleveland Cavaliers announcer) left the show. Former writer Lorne Plant has since taken the reins and he's seeking to reinvent the show.

"The show was good and had community support but it was costly - you have staff, editors and you pay to be on T.V. The sponsors help but it is not cheap and on top of it you're in a market like Detroit where you have top notch pro and college sports," said Plant. "One thing we are proud of is that we cover more than just football, basketball, baseball and the big sports. We cover golf, skiing and the smaller sports as well. If there is a kid in high school, we want to cover it."

After McLeod left, some of the basic goals of the show changed. One such goal according to Plant was to talk about the positivity in Michigan to push back against the negativity. Covering high school sports allows them to do that as they are often about more than just athletics.

Plant pointed out they often teach important life lessons to the student athletes, focus on academics while coaches sometimes act as mentors. In particular, he pointed to Orion as a place surrounded by exciting sports events and supported by tense rivalries.

"Lake Orion has always been a community that finds itself in a state championship," said Plant. "Obviously the football team is great and we make a point to cover the Lake Orion versus Clarkston game, but we also focus on players like Marcus Stevenson. Of course it's not just football. Lake Orion is also a town where you can pick any sport and find a big game."

Finally, Plant added that LOHS Athletic Director Bill Reiss has always provided a helping hand to the show. For Reiss, the relationship has proved a healthy one and he said the show does a lot to introduce the MHSAA to places across Michigan.

"They visit us usually once or twice a season and they work with the MHSAA a lot," said Reiss. "They give out a spirit award which we won a few years back for our football crowds. We're a host too so they'll be here a few more times. Overall it's been a great relationship for us."

Besides television, the show is also available on radio Friday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight during high school sports seasons where the program is co-hosted by Detroit News Writer Tom Markowski.

The show is owned by Brother Rice Football Coach Lou Bitonti and has won three Michigan Emmy Awards for Outstanding Youth Programing. They can be reached online at statechamps.tv.

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