Local radio station to broadcast weekly Catholic League football contests, rotating school to school
FERNDALE — Without a doubt, this is Jeremy Otto’s favorite time of year.
The high school football season gets under way this weekend, and Otto is right in the thick of it, part of the broadcasting crew that brings listeners the Catholic High School League’s Game of the Week on “The Patriot,” WDTK (1400 AM/101.5 FM).
Otto, whose voice listeners hear as the primary play-by-play announcer, has been with The Patriot broadcasts since their inception six seasons ago.
“There’s still a certain level of excitement finding the stories behind the kids,” Otto said. “You still find everybody involved with it has fun. Everyone involved wants to be at a Friday night game. It’s a great league, and you really do find something new every week.”
Unlike most broadcasts of this type, The Patriot crew moves around from school to school, not concentrating on one particular team. Otto says the games in the spotlight are selected either by implications on the standings, traditional rivalries, or a desire to get exposure for as many Catholic League schools as possible.
Regardless, he adds, WDTK is proud to carry the best high school football Michigan has to offer.
“The fact that we’re covering such great games feeds the fire,” Otto said. “You know you’re going to have some of the best teams in the state no matter who you cover. There’s a lot of passion behind the fans and the players. We’ve covered some great games over the years, and I’m really looking forward to Thursday.”
For the first time, The Patriot will air not one, but two games during the opening weekend. On Thursday, WDTK will cover Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at Macomb Dakota. On Friday, the crew will be at Wayne State University for the Warren De La Salle vs. Muskegon contest. Both will feature a pre-game show at 6:30 p.m., game coverage starting at 7, followed by “The Drive Home” post-game show, which includes a game summary, a round-up of other scores and interviews with Catholic League players and coaches.
The crew kicked off the 2019 prep year with a preview show, conducted at the pre-season coaches’ meeting on July 31. Broadcasts will continue as long as a Catholic League team remains in the playoffs — perhaps right up to the championship game at Ford Field.
“As long as we feel we’re able to do a broadcast, we’re able to make it work,” Otto said. “Moving around to different schools and situations, it’s one extreme to another, whether it’s a broadcast booth at Ford Field, or underneath a tent on the 25-yard line.”
The Patriot’s coverage stands alone on Detroit’s airwaves as the only weekly broadcast of a high school game, and the same goes for “The Drive Home” as a post-game feature. Listening has become a Friday night routine for Catholic League followers and fans.
Otto is quite familiar with the CHSL, having attended St. Joan of Arc grade school in St. Clair Shores, University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Madonna University. He’s joined on air by Chad Bush, the longtime radio voice of Eastern Michigan University basketball, and Sean Baligian, the play-by-play man of Wayne State football (which is also carried on WDTK). Bush handles the color while Baligian is a full-time analyst.
Brendan Johnson (a De La Salle/Madonna grad) is the host of the CHSL Drive Home show for the fifth consecutive year.
Over the years, the station’s coverage of the Catholic League has grown, and its credibility has improved.
“Coaches will call us during The Drive Home show, and it shows they’re listening,” Otto said. “Even at media day, the coaches will come up to me and say hi, ask us when we’re doing their games. We have a really good relationship with the coaches now. There’s a certain trust and value among the coaches, athletic directors and school personnel that helps us push it out to families and alumni.”
Even those outside of The Patriot’s signal range can hear the games, which are also streamed on the station's website or with the TuneIn and iHeartRadio apps. Fans can follow along on twitter (@CHSLGO) and Facebook (The Patriot Detroit FM101.5/AM1400 WDTK) for the latest information, including the announcements of upcoming games of the week.
Primary sponsors of the WDTK football broadcasts include Alliance Catholic Credit Union, Siena Heights University, Balance of Nature, Kusch Paint and Nehez Recruiting.