Perhaps the most fun place to be these days for a South Lakes High football game is in the Hawks' Nest — that area of the stands where the student body faithful, many clad in Kelly green and royal blue school colors, make their home and vigorously cheer on the Seahawks.
Indeed, the South Lakes High student body, known as the "Hype Squad," has gotten caught up in the football fever surrounding the Seahawks and new head coach Andy Hill. The team, over its first three games, has received great student support and turnout, in both home and away contests.
The Hype Squad was in full force last Thursday night, Sept. 16 during South Lakes' 43-0 win at cross-town rival Herndon. The victory was the Seahawks' third in a row to start the season.
Certainly, high school teams can receive a psychological, emotional lift from their student fans. That has been the case with the football Seahawks, who are quite aware of their fellow students' backing and loud cheers.
"The fans have been so positive and have helped us keep our intensity level up," said Rashaan Jones, South Lakes' sophomore quarterback.
"The fans have been here every game," said senior safety/back-up quarterback Mikey Bissonnette. "You can feel their enthusiasm."
RAIN during last week's game did not deter the South Lakes student fans from getting caught up in their team's outstanding showing. Seated in the front row bleachers almost directly behind the South Lakes team bench, the teenage fans made their voices heard. A large, green and blue banner, with large block letters, read, Hawks' Nest, lest there be any confusion as to the large group's allegiance.
Early in the game, following a punt block by Seahawk senior Sean Price, the students directed a chant of, "You're Not Ready," to the Herndon team. It was not mean-spirited or malicious, just good old rivalry stuff.
Late in the first half, with their team leading 21-0, the students began the more traditional, "South Lakes Seahawks" chant.
South Lakes Principal Bruce Butler even got the treatment — in a positive vein — when the Hype Squad chanted his name, "Mr. Butler," over and over late in the third quarter. Watching the game near the South Lakes sidelines, Butler could not help but smile and acknowledge the student body.
"We have a lot of real quality juniors and seniors who are real leaders," said Butler, of the student fans. "The kids have just banded together to cheer."
LATER IN THE NIGHT, there were chants of "Let's Go Hype Club" to give themselves a late game boost and then, "This is Our House," based on their team's overwhelming showing that had all but taken the home team Herndon fans out of the game.
"We really get into it with the chants," said senior Austin Leggett, a Hype Squad member. "The team has really come a long way. We have a new coach and everything, and we have a lot of friends on the team."
Another Hype Squad member named Austin — South Lakes junior Austin Chustz — was in awe at his fellow students' emotional level throughout the night.
"This is my first time in the Hype Squad," he said. "It's really crazy. The bleachers were rocking. We were going nuts."
During the moments following the game's conclusion, the South Lakes players waved to their crowd, acknowledging what their support had meant to the team. Following a brief team celebratory huddle, the Seahawks, all of a sudden, dashed towards the bleacher area behind their team bench. Separated from their adoring fans only by a metal fence, the players yelled their thanks and greetings towards South Lakes Nation.
"I was real happy that they acknowledged the fans," said Hill, of his players.
South Lakes senior Anastassia Perfilieva, a Hype Squad member, said students at South Lakes had been looking forward to the game versus Herndon all throughout the week.
"I don't remember the whole school being so pumped up for a game," she said. "Everyone wanted to go."
Sheree Chen, a senior who came to South Lakes as a transfer student last year from Florida, said school spirit has picked up with the success of the football team. She said the sky is the limit for the 2010 Seahawks. "I think they can go to states," said Chen, with a broad smile.
HILL, the former Park View High (Sterling) football coach who came to South Lakes this past off season, has an understanding of school spirit and student emotions directed at a football team. At Park View, his Patriots had ample success and a huge fan following. He is glad to see football fever is currently flourishing at his new school. Hill said the Hype Squad has displayed heart-felt enthusiasm and displayed class as well.
"I'm really happy with the student body and that they are respectful [of the opponent]," said Hill. "South Lakes has a lot of pride."
It was a festive night for the visiting South Lakes team and its fans. Why not? The Seahawks had improved to 3-0 and had beaten the Hornets for the first time since 2002.
"It's a big deal for us," said Butler. "Herndon is always strong. This is like our version of the Army-Navy game. And everybody likes everybody."