RICHFIELD — In the midst of hearing the cheerleaders yell “defense,” the shoes of the players squeaking on the floor and the buzzer on the scoreboard, there is a another sound that is familiar to 1A high school teams during the annual state tournament.
“Christensen, 2 on 2, fast break … got it, big shot for Christensen.”
The voice of John Yardley has been courtside, announcing the play-by-play action on the radio for nearly 30 years for several teams.
“We start with the Escalante Moquis, Bryce Valley Mustangs, Panguitch Bobcats, Piute Thunderbirds, we go out to the Wayne Badgers,” Yardley said.
Back in 1983, Yardley starting gathering sponsorships from local businesses, so fans in the small towns could support their team.
“We started out by asking the little communities to pay $10 a game, so we could round up enough to pay for the phone line to get the game back to the radio station.
Yardley broadcasts for KMGR, based in Manti, and the signal covers central and southern Utah. And after all these years, there are some familiar names returning to the court.
“A lot of these kids' fathers played and (I) broadcasted their games, and now I am broadcasting for their children, so it’s kind of the old déjà vu all over again,” he said.
Yardley’s son, Danny, started helping his dad call the games in 1995, when he was in high school. He has fond memories of those days.
“When I was a little kid, I would spend a lot of time watching the games on the sidelines with him, and it’s been a dream come true, in a way, to be able to do it for all these seasons now together,” he said.
And if people don’t think there are perks to being a small-town sportscaster, think again. During the halftime show of the Panguitch Piute game on Friday, John Yardley received a box of candy. And in his trademark style, he made sure he showed his appreciation, right on the air.
“Thanks, Lois. That’s a nice gift that’s homemade candy from Lois Morgan," he said. "It doesn’t get any better than that, straight from good old Circleville, Utah.”
Yardley himself is from Panguitch, and handling the high school play-by-play is one of his favorite hobbies. But to him, broadcasting the games is really more about recognizing the young athletes and putting them in the spotlight.
He said he knows few will ever go on to play in college and after the buzzer sounds on Friday night, many players return home to help with chores on the family farm.
“Really basketball in the winter is the fabric of the community, and so Friday night basketball sometimes that’s all there is in town," he said.
And with Yardley’s unique style and delivery, it’s always much more than a game to the listeners back at home.