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Red Sea creates Tsunami of school spirit for EU
Varsity football player Zak Lewallen gets asked to the Sadie’s dance by the varsity cheerleaders. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
Note to the The Herd of Manteca High and the Wolfpack of Sierra High: Beware of East Union High’s Red Sea.

There is no drought of school spirit at East Union. And you can judge that anyway you want - volume, enthusiasm, and not being afraid to proudly wear their school colors.

Toss in “The Band`” and, in the words that Manteca Bulletin photographer Hime Romero uttered to East Union High Principal John Alba, “Wow, it’s like you’re at a college game.”

Romero added that the band almost “brought a tear to my eye.”

Yes the ambiance is that good. Of course, it helped that East Union dispatched Ceres High 21-7 on Friday night to improve their mark to 3-0.

You can’t say enough about the Red Sea whether it is being loud, in synch with the cheerleaders, the guy in charge of enthusiastically running in front of the stands with the EU flag when the Lancers score, or even the time they politely booed an official’s call. East Union is a class act.

And nothing makes Alba prouder.

“We’ve been told by other schools we’re a class act,” said Alba who has been the head Lancer for seven seasons since arriving on the scene from a tour of duty as vice principal at Modesto’s Downey High.

Alba, a 1972 Leigh High grad from San Jose, said he never got a chance to play football because his school’s team was of extremely high caliber.

“There were guys that were 6-foot-4, 270 pounds,” Alba recalled. “A short slow guy like me didn’t have a chance of making the team.”

Alba did don his school’s uniform as a baseball player handling second base duties.

And there is little doubt that Alba is proud of the East Union High band.

It has a killer drum line for a high school band. It’s 67 members are into the game and into being a band. They play crisp and sharp from an amazingly smooth Star Spangled Banner complete with a nice intro to a flawless delivery of the school song whether it is having the Lancer varsity football team run through them at pregame or in the stands following an EU score.

Terry Silveira has dedicated 11 years to serving at the East Union band director.

“I love leading the band,” said Silveira who cut his teeth playing trumpet at high school football games for the Cougars of Escalon High where he graduated in 1994.

Silveira gives much of the credit to his two student leaders - Troy Hoffdahl and Michael Mathew - who select the music. It is almost as much fun watching the two lead the band when they are in the stands with their deliberate, flowing movements as it is listening to the Lancers play.

Rounding out the collegiate feel is the precise presentation of colors by the Lancer Battalion JROTC that has been  under the direction of Karl Knutsen for the past 15 years.

The East Union JROTC is 143 strong this year or almost an eleventh of the student body.

Knutsen, during a short trip down memory lane, recalls that in his salad days at the North Campus of Merced High where he graduated in 1972 that going to a football game was as a big a social event then as it is today for students. And it may surprise you to know Knutsen was a self-described “hippie” back in those days complete with hair down to his back. That didn’t stop him from getting behind his school come Friday night.

And what would high school be without Friday night football? Knutsen asked a couple of EU students that question. They came back with words such as “disappointing”, “anger”, and “lost.”

David Torrres who assists Knutsen with JROTC diuties noted football games create the spirit that “is the glue that holds a school together.”

And in case you’re wondering Torres played football as a linebacker for San Bernardino High where he graduated in 1967.

East Union football also has a bit of a tradition building in the form of a sledge hammer.

The coaches pick a varsity player each week who has gone above and beyond with “hard work and determination.” The player gets  to bring the sledge hammer to every practice and carry it into the stadium for that week’s game. No one else gets to touch it.

Athletic Director Eric Simoni said when he heard a stirring speech at practice about the sledge hammer given by one of the varsity football coaches to players , it inspired him so much he wanted a chance to earn the sledge hammer himself.
The Lancer who earned the sledge hammer this week was Steve Gigli.

Week No. 3
The scorecard
• FANS: If you looked into the East Union home stand it looked like there was red everywhere. There was little doubt it was the Red Sea - the student cheer group - that was carrying the day.

Three weeks into the season they have managed to upstage - though just slightly - their cross-town counterparts at Manteca High and Sierra High - by being stronger in numbers, louder, more enthusiastic, and making all the right moves. The season’s still young, though. Given the fairly strong showings so far of The Herd and the Wolfpack any school could lay bragging rights to the best student cheer section. GRADE: “A-”

• BANDS: They can play. They can march. They are impressive. East Union has had a rep as a solid marching band for a number of years. The good news is they have some up and coming competition at Manteca High and Sierra High. Each passing year Manteca Unified’s instrumental music programs are growing stronger.

But to be honest, East Union is the gold standard for Manteca Unified. It’s not that the competition is lacking. It’s that East Union is that good.

Still, there is room for polishing but Romero got it right that the band’s field presence , music, and in-stand performance makes you feel as if it is a college game and not just a high school contest. By the way, the color guard offered a nice touch of being a part of the band in the stands as well. GRADE “A-”

• SIGNS: Whoa, did we count 48 signs? It was an extremely nice touch as there was a message for every varsity player. The East Union High cheerleaders take their roles seriously. Add a couple of big signs and they will really impress. GRADE “B+”

• SPIRIT SQUAD: Again, the Lancer cheerleaders are a class act. But then again so are Sierra’s and Manteca’s respective squads. It would be real interesting to get all three cheer squads together in one spot for a friendly competition. They all work real well with student cheer sections, and they are all into the game. GRADE: B:.

• CROWD ETIQUETTE: Yes, the student cheer section booed once but as boos go it was class. GRADE: “B+”

• NEXT WEEK: It’s been three weeks since we’ve seen the Sierra High fans and bands in action. They host Oakdale this Friday in the Valley Oak League opener. Let’s see if they can fire up their team and give the Red Sea - and the Lancer band - a run for the money.