High School Sports

High school rooting sections: Loud, proud organized chaos are backdrop at football games

High school rooting sections across the region have been on their A game this fall. They have to be, otherwise the rival fans will drown them out.

The best cheering sections serve as an emphatic backdrop to the football action.

On any given Friday night in Placer County, El Dorado County or throughout Sacramento, students are packed into bleachers, decked in school colors, face paint and making a racket. It is fun and organized chaos, a costumed Halloween theme for all seasons.

Some of the students standing and shouting are athletes from other sports, mingling with some whose only extra curricular endeavors might be improving on their 4.5 GPA.

So, what makes a good student section?

Is it the amount of people? If so, check any Holy event between rivals Christian Brothers and St. Francis/Jesuit. Students take their rooting serious and personal, squeezing into their seats and next to each other and belting out chants as as if their grades depend on it.

At the 49th Holy Bowl in September, Christian Brothers students stormed the Hughes Stadium field after the Falcons defeated Jesuit for the first time in nine years, as if it were a fire drill. It was a cause for a campus celebration.

And what’s a rivalry now without the rooting section? The annual Quarry Bowl in Placer County pits Rocklin against Whitney. The community comes together to support their teams, with the teenage voices ringing loudest.

When Rocklin defeated Oak Ridge in a Sierra Foothill League game, the Thunder’s rooting section – “The Storm” – capped homecoming night with a game to remember.

“That crowd was a major factor,” Rocklin coach Jason Adams said after the Oak Ridge game. “I know our kids could feel the energy in the stands. They helped us get this victory.”

Black Hole roots at Del Oro

Del Oro will host Rocklin on Friday in one of the most spirited rivalry games in the region. Some of the best action may come from the stands.

For years, Del Oro students wore shirts that read, “Stick Rocklin!” Del Oro’s “The Black Hole” section has been a trademark for years. Students hold up signs, chant and cheer concurrently. They revel in the chance to throw various colors of powder into the air.

Kids who grow up in Loomis or outlying areas often dream of becoming a rowdy rooter at Del Oro.

One of those kids was Caiden Macktinger. The Del Oro senior sports a 4.27 GPA and is off to the Air Force Academy to compete in track and field. He spends hours each week meeting and planning rooting themes and gameday festivities.

“Being one of the student section leaders is an honor because I have been deemed a good example of the student community,” Maktinger said. “I lead the student section, along with a few other awesome leaders, because I want to set an example as to what school pride and spirit should look like. I’m also able to bring my fellow peers together under these same aspects.”

Another kid who grew up eager to attend Del Oro was Jeff Walters. He played sports at Del Oro in the early 2000s and is now the school’s football coach.

“The rooting section was created my senior year and it was the brainchild of (longtime Del Oro teacher and coach) Steve Birch,” Walters said. “I actually remember the discussion during third block when I was his (teacher assistant). We were trying to get students to show up to football games. Birch came up with the idea that the varsity football team would attend the freshman game and each player had to bring one friend. That friend had to bring another person the following night to our game – and ‘The Black Hole’ was born.

“It’s amazing to see how it has grown since then as not many schools at the time had dedicated student sections and now it is a fairly standard thing on Friday nights across many schools. Its another thing that makes high schools sports great.”

Cool names and tradition roots

The other cool thing about rooting sections is their names.

Among those in the area: “The Falcon Force” at Christian Brothers, Jesuit’s “Galley Crew,” Granite Bay’s “The Tribe,” Del Oro’s “The Black Hole,” Oak Ridge’s “O Zone,” Folsom’s “Dog Pack,” Lincoln’s “The Zoo,” Whitney’s “X Factor,” Placer’s “The Gold Mine” and Vista del Lago’s “The Nest.”

At some schools, students have parents or grandparents who cheered more modestly in their day. But the concept has not changed: support, which mirrors mantra at Placer – “Tradition never graduates.”

But creating tradition doesn’t happen overnight.

Whitney started its student section in 2007 when now-athletic director Jason Feuerbach was the activities director. One way for a new school to get noticed is to get loud, and that’s what Whitney did.

It’s a big deal to be a student section leader at Whitney. There are spring elections to decide leaders for the upcoming school year. And to reinforce what is allowed and what is not.

“This committee sets out to organize the student section themes, music, chants, giveaways, tailgates, etc.,” Whitney activities director Jesse Armas said. “At times throughout the year we have lunchtime meetings to discuss anything new or simply get organized for an upcoming game. As the activities director, I am in charge of overseeing them to ensure nothing inappropriate is chanted.”

Granite Bay enhanced its rooting-section tradition in the early 2000s by adding bleachers in the end zone. That allowed students to get an even-closer view of the action, and it worked for years until it suddenly didn’t.

The tradition ended in 2017 after Antelope players got into a scuffle with members of “The Tribe,” prompting Granite Bay administrators to pull the plug on end zone seating. The rooting section earned the right to sit in the end zone again by following administrators’ behavior guidelines.

The Tribe had a record-setting rooting crowd against Folsom this season. Tribe leaders from the year before nominate the leaders for next year. This academic year it is Summer Holt. She is a 4.1 student who will play soccer at TCU. Holt and her Tribe mates spend up to 15 hours a week to plan and coordinate their Friday bleacher fun.

“Being the first female Tribe leader is really an honor, and it’s been an incredible experience so far,” Holt said. “It brings me a lot of joy knowing that girls from the younger classes are now inspired to lead their school because it now has officially been done before.

“I believe anyone can be a Tribe leader no matter the gender. It’s really just what kind of person they are and how they make others feel. Granite Bay has been an incredible place the past few years and I feel the positive culture will continue to grow. Our peers have had an incredible influence on the culture, and it’s truly been a great school to grow and connect in.”

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.