Make no doubt it.
Student cheer sections are rising to the challenge.
Consider Friday night at Manteca High
The Herd - which had been a tad lethargic compared to Sierra High’s Wolfpack and East Union’s Red Sea - came alive. It was one of their biggest, loudest, and more intense efforts to date.
How big was it? Well, they had to move the student cheer section away from the seating in front of the press box because they are finally drawing the student cheer numbers at home that have been routine at Sierra High and East Union High for the past several years.
The stomach painting spelling “varsity Buffaloes” was a nice touch too.
However, student-for-student the Wolfpack was a bit louder and made an impressive showing for a visiting team topped so far this year only by East Union High’s Red Sea on their short road trip to Wolfpack territory.
So, just how important is a pumped up student cheer section?
“It’s what gives the players energy,” noted Jon Shaefer, who has coached the Manteca High freshman football team for 16 years.
It can help inspire players to perform above and beyond and it can help deliver victory.
Besides that, as Sierra High athletic director Greg Leland pointed out, it can lift the entire school.
“It’s a way kids can be part of something,” Leland said of student cheer sections. “Kids go to school to learn and get good grades but it is also important that they feel part of something.”
In numbers, volume, and creativity the Herd, the Wolfpack, and The Red Sea impress this year.
And that’s not just hyperbole. Shaefer last donned pads at Manteca High in 1980 when he played quarterback and defensive back on the Buffalo team that downed East Union 21-20 to make it to the section playoffs. Leland last coached there in 1985. Both noted 25 to 30 years ago the crowds were bigger but the student cheer sections were not as loud or as good.
They also recall people lining the fence several deep as well as the stands being full.
“If you wanted to get a seat you had to get to Manteca High by 3 p.m.,” Shafer recalled.
Leland believes college football and the desire to out-do cross-town schools in a friendly rivalry is inspiring student cheer sectional to new heights.
Shaefer, whose football these days include serving as president and coach of the Manteca Chargers, did his part by supplying 50 towels from In Shape for the adult fans to twirl below the press box when the student cheer was waving the green and white twirlers. His son Jonathan is in his fifth season with the Chargers and plays tight end and linebacker.
Also impressive were the adults who were cheering for both Sierra and Manteca. The towel bit got the Manteca over 35 crowds into it that prompted the Sierra parents to step up as well.
The Ripon JOTC canon was on hand again to celebrate Manteca scores along with the traditional bell ringing.
•THE FANS: There should be a competition for the most spirited standard bearer. Both the Manteca and Sierra flag bearers obviously took their jobs seriously and did so with pride. The edge though has to go to the Sierra flag bearer for more intensity.
Face painting per se was topped by Sierra with some creative and fierce designs but when it came to stomach paint, the Herd won hands down.
Let’s see how stomach painting pans out as the temperatures drop.
The Wolfpack was more constant although the Herd is doing much better these days not letting long stretches of silence fill the air. Still, the Buffs impressed.
Judging each school by the fact one was at home and the other was visiting, here are the grades: Sierra High “B+” and Manteca High “B+”
•BANDS: The uniforms look sharp, the marching is getting better, and the music is sweet. GRADE: “B+”
•SIGNS: What’s with the home team putting signs on the visitors’ side? Sierra refrained from putting additional signs they had up because they didn’t want to be rude guests. Hopefully the Buffs let their guests next time have use of the fence on their side. And it really didn’t make sense to have Manteca jersey signs on the Sierra side. The Buffs did have more signs than normal.
Some of Manteca High’s signs were definitely creative such as “Our Blood, Our Sweat, Your Tears” but for pure class Sierra’s signs - “victory honor” as an example - are real winners. GRADES: Sierra “A-“, Manteca “B+”
•SPIRIT SQUADS: Got to give the Sierra cheerleaders an edge here but it probably isn’t the fault of the Manteca High cheerleaders. Moving The Herd toward the north end of the stands made a big disconnect with the student cheer section. Hopefully next time the cheerleaders are in front of the Herd helping whip up the enthusiasm. GRADE: Sierra “A’”, Manteca “B+”
•CROWD ETIQUETTE: Still impressive. Even though there was booing on some calls, it was polite enough. GRADES: Both sides deserve a grade of “A-”
•NEXT WEEK: All Manteca schools are on the road leaving the only in-district match up as Lathrop at Weston Ranch.