For some McKean High students, Thursday included a unique field trip.
The football team piled onto buses, most players dressed in suit and tie. Cheerleaders donned their full uniforms, and even the drum line came along. Football season, however, ended weeks ago.
They were headed to Penn Cinema in downtown Wilmington. Playing at 11 a.m.: a movie, produced by former NFL Films staffers, about the Highlanders.
“It made me feel kind of high powered. It was really, really exciting,” senior quarterback Darius Jones said with a big grin.
The film, “One Blood,” is produced in the vein of HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Filmmakers Rob Markopoulos and Anderson Bradshaw followed McKean coach Michael Ryan and the Highlander football team for nearly a month, documenting the lives of players and coaches on and off the field. “One Blood” will air on EDtv (Comcast channel 965) tonight.
“I almost wish I sat reverse so I could watch the kids and the coaches,” Markopoulos said. “Because that’s why we did it. We’ve been fortunate to do it with professional athletes, but they appreciate it in a way that’s totally different. To watch them get excited and laugh where they should laugh, it was great.”
The film is endearing. It jumps from lighthearted to intense with ease, focusing on the familial relationships formed from being on the team. Each coach is featured in interviews throughout the 90-minute film, as are five players.
Markopoulos is the director of operations at EDtv, an education-centered channel run by the Red Clay School District. The channel broadcasts from the communications center at McKean, and students from the school worked the premiere Thursday, conducting red-carpet interviews and filming the event.
“For the program they have at the school, the radio and television program, it’s a good way to show the kids they can make this, too,” Bradshaw said. “That was kind of the whole point. These kids are able to pick up a camera and do it just like we did. A lot of these kids are taking the class now. It’s kind of paid for itself in that regard.”
Ryan and Markopoulos hatched the idea shortly after Ryan came to the Red Clay School District. Ryan figured it was excited banter unlikely to come true. But Markopoulos was serious.
“I came from the NFL a few years ago, and when I came in, I told coach ‘I’m going to give you a ‘Hard Knocks’ about your football team,’ ” Markopoulos said. “I gave him my word. It was better than any ‘Hard Knocks’ I’ve ever been a part of.”
It became reality Thursday. Ryan, his players, parents, cheerleaders, the drum line and other guests shuffled into Theater 7 at Penn Cinema for the film. Moments after he walked out the theater, Ryan was emotional.
“Right now … I’ve got to get it together,” Ryan said, holding back tears. “Just a lot of emotion with all these kids, family members, my immediate family members here. It’s nice for them to see what we do on a daily basis. They don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. I think we have a unique situation at McKean and a unique cast of characters.”
Students gave a standing ovation as the film closed. They were all smiles as they walked out of the theater, most of them heading back to class. For all, it was a special day – and a pretty cool field trip.
“We looked forward to it all year,” Jones said. “It’s a great cap to our season.”