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Sierra High fans & bands off to strong start
Members of the Wolfpack cheering section Michelle Arroyo, left, and Sarah Konecny show their school spirit for Sierra High Friday night. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The Sierra High Wolfpack - the undisputed leader among Manteca schools in disciplined student cheer sections - was ready to howl Friday night.

True the blue white and silver faces were at a minimum and they’ve been louder in the past.

But then again it was the first football game of the season, they were at least five dozen strong and it was still August.

That all said - and the Sierra High varsity’s 35 to 25 opening loss to the visiting Enochs aside - the Wolfpack are sending a clear message out to their counterparts at East Union, Manteca, and Lathrop high schools: Sierra High is loud and clear when it comes to school pride.

Band shows Sierra colors
Normally the odds are greater of getting a balanced state budget on time than seeing a high school marching band in full uniform for the first home game of the season let alone when the game falls in August.

Band director Richard Hammarstrom said the band council leaders hustled over the past 2.5 days to make sure they could get all 42 members in uniform.

“Some don’t fit too well,” he quipped “but they are all in uniform.”

And the band sounded nice and brassy although Hammarstrom noted their repertoire of selections is still small given the short time they’ve had this school year. Not meaning to be critical, the one thing they were a bit weak on was The Star Spangled Banner. But then again by the time Week No. 5 rolls around and the Timberwolves host the Lancers I’m willing to bet the Sierra band nails the national anthem.

Hammarstrom has been at the helm of the Sierra band for all but two years of the school’s existence as he stepped in when Art Reif retired. He’s getting the Timberwolves geared up for a campus jazz festival on Oct. 30 in a bid to make up for the fact budget realities have cut deeply into band funding. It’ll involve university level musicians, school groups, and community bands from Horizon Studios, Janis Music, and Modesto studios.

Generating ‘big catch scratch’ fever
Sierra High’s student cheer section takes their mission seriously. Their aim is to get some “(big) cat scratches” on the psyche of opposing teams by being boisterous supporters of their school.

They have a club constitution as well as officers that have built on a solid foundation laid down by the original Wolfpack leader Andrew Griggs who also served as Sierra High student body president.

Among the True Sierra Blue fans Friday was Vern Gebhardt who hasn’t missed a Sierra High football game in the 15 years the school has been in existence.

The school’s first athletic director who served as football coach at East Union High on the varsity level for 10 years before helping start Timberwolf traditions sees football not as just a source of school pride but also a way to bring the community closer together.

He pointed across town to Manteca High where some people have been attending home games at Guss Schmiedt Field approaching 50 years to cheer on the Big Green Machine. Sierra High is also starting to build a similar following with its own unique twists. For example, band alumni will pop up at games and ask to play with the band. Typically they are asked simply to wear school color and to bring their own instrument. They don’t march with the band but they pick up horns and drum sticks to help build a never-dying loyalty to the Blue & Silver.

Week No. 1:The scorecard
Now for the main event: The rating of the fans and bands.

Week No. 1 is a one-sided affair as we’ll skip on passing judgment on Enochs since they are not in the running for the unofficial title of having the best “Bands & Fans in Manteca-Lathrop.”

• FANS: Not bad for the first game of the year. Sierra filled just under half of the home side. Although the MySpace generation was clearly walking around texting and yakking on cell phones when they weren’t cutting up with friends and classmates, they definitely were making the evening one of OurSpace by freely interacting with each other and the game unfolding on the field. GRADE: “B”

• STUDENT CHEER SECTIONS: It’s been a few years that we’ve seen Big Red (East Union) and the Green Machine (Manteca High) and can hardly wait to see what they have to offer as well as the Black & Gold at Lathrop High. Give the Wolfpack points for having strong numbers out of the gate but they have plenty of room for creativity and can still turn up the volume a lot more. GRADE: “B-”

: There was no rag-tag look for the opening game. The music sounded good and it will get better. GRADE: “B”

• SIGNS: Is there a paper shortage that I’m not aware of? Yes, it was the first game but at least kill a few saplings for your team. GRADE: “F”

• SPIRT SQUAD: They looked sharp, they were attentive to the game, and they sounded good. GRADE: “B”

• CROWD ETIQUETTE: No complaints. Adults and youth alike showed class. GRADE: “A-”

NEXT WEEK: Coming up next Friday is Galt at Manteca High. We know Manteca High has a strong football tradition but can the student cheer section match the Buffaloes’ game on the field? We’ll see.