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"High school football in Alabama ... speaks for itself" 

Nothing gets Southerners more worked up than high school football -- and that's doubly so in Alabama. We attended Tuscaloosa County High School's homecoming game against Birmingham's Shades Valley High. It was a 36-29 squeaker for the home team.

Jaime Thompson, wife of Tuscaloosa receivers' coach Price Thompson: "This is a pretty big event, homecoming and all. We get a good crowd every Friday. High school football in Alabama, well, it speaks for itself."

The game was the day after the first presidential debate and, no surprise, not all of the competition was on the field.

Thompson: "I watched the debate, and it didn't surprise me. I'm Bush all the way. I'm very, very conservative. Generally, it's pretty conservative around here. Ninety percent of the people here will say, "Bush.'"

At the football field's gate, retired coal miner Robert Cochren and Reba Love, a business manager, are handing out Kerry-Edwards fans -- a smart tactic on a steamy Alabama evening.

Robert Cochren: "A lot of people won't admit it, but they're going to vote for him."

Reba Love: "A lot more than you'd suspect. At my job, many of us are Kerry people, and my job is just soooooo Alabama. We take iron ore and crush it into pigment. An hour ago, we were doing inventory, and I was all red, green, black, but mostly red, from the dust."

Inside the stadium, we talked to students. Jason Morrison looks spiffy in his ROTC duds, and his freshman girlfriend, Jennifer Grubbs, clearly likes a man in uniform. They're joined by two friends, Jackie Fuller and Ryan Tice.

Jason Morrison: "Bush kinda talked slow [in the debate], but he knew what he was saying. Kerry sounded like an ass."

Jennifer Grubbs: "We like Bush, yes we do."

Morrison: "I'm going straight into the Marines when I graduate. I knew from the start I'd vote for Bush because I'd always wanted to be a Marine. I've been hooked on the Marine Corps ever since I saw a movie about them when I was a kid."

Jackie Fuller, shoving Morrison: "We're not all like him. It's Kerry for me."

Ryan Tice: "I say "neither of them.' I can't see how my vote counts, and I don't believe either of them."

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