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Veteran Radio Crew Ready for Another Title

John Coffey and Matt Gaarder have been calling Northwest games together for 15 years.
(FLORENCE, Ala.) Another national championship appearance for Northwest means another trip to Alabama for the Bearcat Radio Network.

"I don't know if any broadcast group has anymore fun than what we have," Northwest play-by-play announcer John Coffey said.

Since 1985, John Coffey's served as the "voice of the Bearcats," and the Northwest alum has been in the booth for each of the seven previous Bearcat title games.

"We really enjoy doing the games. The road trips are a lot of fun. And it's really as good of a job as you could possibly have in this business."

For the last 15 years, Matt Gaarder's been at Coffey's side.

Gaarder was the sideline reporter for two years as a student at Northwest, and joined the radio network full time in 1999.

"At times we're kind of like brothers," Gaarder said of he and Coffey, "and there are times of year where we see more of each other than our families. You have to have a good relationship with who you're traveling with and who you're on air with."

They've also developed a relationship with players and coaches through the years.

Gaarder was a student at Northwest at the same time as head coach Adam Dorrel. Gaarder recalls interviewing Dorrel after a late Northwest touchdown beat Nebraska-Omaha in the 1996 playoffs.

"A.D. in this real high pitched voice told everybody back home 'if you didn't see that, that was a helluva catch.' And then he ran away," Gaarder said with a laugh. "So here I am, a student trying to do an interview at the time, and I'm like what do I do now. But now to see that and now to get to this point where we get a chance to go back to Alabama, it's really neat."

Coffey's memories of the Bearcats head coach go back to his middle school days.

"This may age me a little bit, but I think I called a little league baseball game when Adam Dorrel was playing at that level," Coffey said. "I've watched him literally grow up in this town and it is fun to see how he has matured through the years."

Now with one game left in the 2013 season, the radio team with Maryville roots is hoping to return home with another good story to tell.

"Whether it's coaching or broadcasting or whatever, you'd love to go back to your alma mater and be a part of a successful program," Gaarder said, "and that's what we've had the opportunity to do -- be part of our alma mater, watch the success and it's been a blast."
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