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From the sideline, Manteca students provide insight to live audience streaming on Instagram
power play
COLTON MURILLO & JUSTIN LEE/The Tower Manteca High seniors Andrew Robison and Nick Grabowski anchor PowerPlay, the school’s only sports podcast.


The Tower 

As the football season closes in on its finish line, fans of the Manteca High football team have become familiar with two students – Andrew Robison and Nicholas Grabowski, the hosts of Manteca High’s PowerPlay, a sports podcast. 

Robison and Grabowski have had a regular presence at the last three home games, including the Buffaloes’ come-from-behind victory over Rocklin in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals.

They can be found in front of the light and camera on the sideline or in the end zone before and after games, speaking to an audience scattered across the digital universe. And that’s where they’ll be this Saturday as Manteca guns for its ninth Sac-Joaquin Section banner. The top-seeded Buffaloes take on No. 6 Granite Bay at Sacramento City College at 6 p.m.

PowerPlay will go live around 5:45 p.m.

 It is no surprise that these seniors have witnessed success in front of the camera given their past experiences. The longtime friends began podcasting three years ago with the short-lived Manteca Wiffle Ball League Podcast.

That experience taught them a lot about content creation and camera presence.

 “We got really comfortable with reading off a script, keeping that flow, and keeping everything going, like a podcast should,” Robison said. “We’ve been able to do that really well.” 

PowerPlay began this year in James Burns’ Video Productions and Multimedia class. Burns challenged the students with dreaming up a podcast of their own, and Grabowski and Robison, who spend most of their time in the class talking sports anyways, knew just what to do. 

With their podcast experience, brotherly-like chemistry, passion for all things sports, PowerPlay was created. Topics have ranged from fantasy football, sports at Manteca High School, and Major League Baseball. 

“We chose to create PowerPlay since we had a history of created podcast, back when we played wiffle ball. We ran a podcast with a couple of guys, (but) mainly me and Nick. We had special guests featured and we got comfortable with doing podcast. When Burns introduced us to an idea of PowerPlay, we were up to do it,” Robison said. 

The idea of podcasts came from Burns’ belief that his class connect communication and technology. As the landscape of communication and entertainment changes, Burns thought that Manteca High should follow suit. 

“Communication has changed so much over the years, and there are so many more platforms and mediums students can use to express themselves,” Burns said. “Podcasts are the latest craze. I subscribe to a few different podcasts, and I thought it would be cool to give students the opportunity to share their thoughts and creativity in that space. So far, so good.” 

Social media offered PowerPlay a chance to leave the studio for the sidelines. What’s more, it offered a chance to leave the YouTube channel for a live audience on Instagram. Burns offered PowerPlay a chance to host live shows during the pre- and post-game, as well as halftime on the school’s Instagram account (@MantecaHighSchool).

“I wasn’t expecting much but it took off with Instagram Live ... and got a lot of views,” Grabowski said. 

Instagram Live was the result of Burns seeing the potential of the two hosts. Something was special with how they interacted, specifically how both shared their passion for sports out loud.  

“There is a natural rhythm and chemistry between Grabowski and Robison, and anyone within earshot of them during class can pick up on their love of sports and analysis,” he said. “They’re constantly talking about fantasy football and the trade wire. When I learned that they have a history in podcasts and live productions, putting them in charge of ‘PowerPlay’ was a no-brainer.” 

Grabowski and Robison prepare for their live shows with a week’s worth of research. For the Buffaloes’ semifinal win over Rocklin, the PowerPlay duo spent time with the coaching staff, analyzed Rocklin roster and season, and compared the Sierra Foothill League to the Valley Oak League. 

Burns marvels at their ease on camera. Beyond their growing authority on the subject matter, it’s their natural chemistry that carries them.  

“Their strength is their chemistry. Most people choke up or change when the camera turns on, but not Nick and Andrew. They’re so comfortable with one another and have such a natural interplay that it’s almost like there isn’t a camera or two pointed on them,” Burns said. “One area that they must get better at is the area of research and knowledge. Once they understand the importance of research, PowerPlay and their careers will really take off. They must become the authority on the subject matter they’re discussing, which requires hours upon hours of time spent off camera.”  


Manteca High students Colton Murillo, Jack Vasquez, Bryan Lopez, and Justin Lee contributed to this report.