In the fall, Crunch shined the spotlight on Friday night football.

Now the spotlight has been turned on Crunch.

The high school football Web site from the New Castle News is one of three sites from across the nation nominated for a “most innovative” award by the Digital Edge, an Internet enterprise of the Newspaper Association of America.

Forty-two online experts — including newspaper- and broadcast-affiliated Web site directors, and educators — selected the finalists from entries submitted by NAA members.

Tim Kolodziej, editor and director of new media at The News, designed the concept for Crunch and oversaw its daily production.

“We’re thrilled to even be mentioned among the best,” Kolodziej said. “This was our first major Web endeavor and I’m extremely proud of our staff for all of the hard work they put into the site.”

Chief photographer Andrew Rush was the project’s lead Web designer and Erica Mihok, its primary videographer.

“Both Andrew and Erica did a super job,” Kolodziej said. “The site looked fantastic, which is a testament to Andrew, and the video production was first-rate, which is a credit to Erica. I’m excited for them that their work is being recognized on a national level. They deserve it.”

Also playing a major role on the Web site were Internet technician Tom Covert, Today editor Dan Irwin, who updated scores and statistics, and Willis Bretz Jr., who shot most of the photographs.

Kolodziej also credited a pair of Web developers from the corporate office of CNHI, which owns The News. Chris Muldrow and Kalin Stamenov assisted with programming issues.

“Like football, you can’t win without a great team. I’m blessed to work with a group of people who are committed to excellence. They blow me away with their effort.”

In addition to Cyber Trading Cards for each player in the county, Crunch offered several features that were updated daily:

•Video highlights from the Game of the Week

•An interactive Player of the Week “flip card.”

•Panoramic images from football stadiums around the county

•Screensavers and wallpaper

•And a Band of the Week feature with audio from halftime performances

The News is a finalist in the “Most Innovative Multimedia Storytelling” category for papers with a circulation of 50,000 or less. The other finalists are the Grand Island Independent of Grand Island, Neb., and The Bonita Daily News in Bonita Springs, Fla.

“It’s a cliché, but nonetheless true — it is a tremendous accomplishment just to be nominated for a national award of this caliber,” said News publisher Max Thomson. “This recognition establishes the New Castle News as one of the innovators among newspaper Web sites on the Internet.”

Thomson said Crunch and The Bounce, a basketball Web site now playing on www.ncnewsonline.com, are prime examples of the unique way information can now be presented.

“Those sites are just a glimpse of where the New Castle News believes information delivery is heading. We are excited about the future potential for ncnewsonline.com.”

Kolodziej said Black Pearl Customs has been “a fabulous sponsor for both sites.”

“I really want to thank Jeff Gwin for his faith in our ideas,” he said of Black Pearl’s chief executive officer.

“A lot of people thought we were crazy, but he didn’t. I can’t thank him enough for his support of our projects. I hope we can carry over the momentum to basketball season.”

The Digital Edge winners will be announced at a Feb. 19 ceremony in Orlando, Fla.

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