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Democrat and Chronicle

High school spirit soars

By Jeff DiVeronica
Staff writer

(January 30, 2004) — It’s easy to figure out at Pittsford Sutherland if the boys basketball team has a big game that night.

“The best way to describe the hallways (during school) is a sea of blue. It’s ridiculous,” says senior Dave Horesh, a member of the school’s “Sutherland Superfans.”

Hundreds of students, and some of the teachers, wear Superfans T-shirts, which feature a Superman-like “S.” On occasion, even principal Liz Konar sports one.

“She wouldn’t be caught at a game without her T-shirt,” Horesh says.

The Superfans will be out in full force tonight when the Knights play at rival Pittsford Mendon, but Pittsford isn’t the only place where spirit is soaring. Other schools in the Monroe County League, most notably Brockport, Fairport and Rush-Henrietta, have followed Sutherland’s lead with boisterous student sections for boys basketball games.

“It’s pretty contagious right now and it’s a lot of fun, just a great atmosphere,” says veteran Brockport coach Charlie Hage, whose school has a “Devil’s Den” section that is usually at least 150 strong. “I know our players get into it. (The fans) give us high energy.”

DANESE KENON staff photographer
”Sutherland Superfans” Dave Horesh, Jason Pierce and Jordan Schifino whoop in the Pittsford Sutherland student section at a recent game. Some teachers, and the principal, deck themselves out like this, too.

Coaches, players and students agree that the support is fun, but school administrators must monitor fan activity to ensure good sportsmanship. That probably will be emphasized even more as a result of an altercation Jan. 17 at Hilton between the parent of a Spencerport wrestler and a wrestling official.

“I’m sure a lot of schools might re-evaluate” how they monitor events and handle similar situations, says Kathy Hoyt, coordinator of the Section V Sportsmanship Committee. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Big ‘S’ roars

Several boys basketball coaches say the toughest place to play in Monroe County is Sutherland, where the floor is so much smaller than regulation size, Section V won’t allow playoff games there.

“That gym’s worth a few points, but so are those kids,” says Irondequoit’s Chris Cardon, an area basketball coach for nearly 20 years. “Those kids are unbelievable. I’ve never seen fans like that, guys and girls. They’re not only great fans and travel well (to opposing schools), but they’re well-schooled.”

The Superfans are smart. When Irondequoit’s Josh Santiago missed a free throw in Sutherland’s season-opening loss, they sang in unison, “You’re no Phil-lip! You’re no Phil-lip!” a reference to former Batavia star Phil Santiago.

If an opponent throws a bad pass, the Superfans might cheer, “Joe Mont-tan-a,” and Cardon recalls their Brady Bunch theme rendition a few years ago to mockingly salute Irondequoit player Greg Brady.

Says Horesh, “We check out the rosters, try to pick people with funny names or players who we know are going to give our team a hard time.”

Coaches always say a homecourt edge helps, but Sutherland’s John Nally means it. The fourth-year coach says a few times this season opponents shot the ball prematurely thinking the shot clock was about to expire because the Superfans were counting it down.

Cardon personally complimented some Superfans after the season opener at Sutherland. “He wanted to know how Irondequoit could get fans like us,” Horesh says.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

About six years ago, Sutherland’s student section gained steam. Nally thinks it was because of the team’s success when former stars Ray and Ryan Blackwell played there.

Initially, the Superfans were a group of about 10 kids, says Horesh, who captains the club along with Adam DeVoria.

Now about 200 or 300 jam into Sutherland’s gym, which has a capacity of 820. The student-run club has sold about 750 T-shirts this season at $10 apiece. Most of the money covers the cost of the shirts, but Horesh says a small donation was made to charity. Many kids buy two or three shirts and have different nicknames on them. Any name that might be questionable must be approved by Konar, says Pittsford athletic director Scott Barker.

Senior Katie Hainsworth has been a Superfan for four years. This season, she runs the club’s Web site —

“It’s hilarious at the games,” she says. “We have a lot of fun.”

It can get a little rowdy at times, Hainsworth says. For example, a special cheer by the school’s cheerleaders always touches off mosh-pit-like mayhem. “The guys are a little more gentle with the girls,” she says.

Red zones

Brockport, Fairport and Rush-Henrietta have each seen their student sections grow the past few seasons.

When Fairport coach Scott Fitch replaced his father as coach three years ago, he personally bought 40 T-shirts for students (Slogan: Real Fans Wear Red) and gave them to kids he had seen regularly at games. He asked them to recruit their friends.

“We’ve always had pretty good support but it was always an older crowd,” says Fitch, a former star guard at Fairport and SUNY Geneseo.

This year’s shipment of 200 shirts for the “Red Zone” — the student section’s name — sold out. Sean McLaughlin, a standout football player, also runs around the court waving a huge “F” flag.

Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski “does a great job reminding their fans that they’re the sixth man and we’ve been trying to do that,” Fitch says.

Devil’s Den

Brockport has the same school colors (blue/white) and nickname (Blue Devils) as Duke, and its student section has grown from 70 two years ago to nearly 170.

Mike Myers, Brockport’s dean of students, started the “Devil’s Den” to “give the kids going to the game more of an identity and inspire more to go.”

He did more than that. He asked athletic director Chris Bourne whether the kids who sat in the section could get in for free. Bourne’s response: “If they wear their (Devil’s Den) T-shirts,” Myers said.

Student Dale Vanvorst made a big “Devil’s Den,” sign and at each game one student also is randomly selected to receive a $10 gift certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods. That student also tries a 3-point shot at halftime. The reward is a $100 certificate to the Mall at Greece Ridge Center. Student council paid for the prizes, Myers said.

Each “Devil’s Den” member also must sign this agreement: “Positive cheering only. No profanity or abusive language or behavior. Respect for opponents and referees. Follow Brockport’s School Code of Conduct.”

Comet Crazies

When Rush-Henrietta won at Fairport a few weeks ago, R-H guard Aaron Poles says, “You could barely hear yourself think.”

About 2,300 fans packed Fairport’s gym and among the Royal Comets’ crowd were a vocal group of R-H students. They call themselves “Comet Crazies.”

“It gets you really hyped up and pumped for the game,” Poles says. “When you play at Brockport, you know you’re at Brockport. When you play at Fairport, you know you’re at Fairport.”

And at Rush, the crazies chant, “Rrrr-H, Rrrr-H.”

“I think our fan support always existed, but not to the point it does now,” says fourth-year coach and R-H graduate Chris Reed. “Now kids say they’re a ‘Comet Crazy’ and it’s like their sport. That’s what they tell people.”

For big games, Reed figures there are about 200 students. On other nights only 75, but they are key. “Sometimes you’re worried the kids won’t be up for a game and the atmosphere gets them up,” he says.

“Our AD (Tom Stewart) loves them but sometimes he has his hands full. We have to monitor them pretty closely to make sure (the cheering) is appropriate.”

The same will be done tonight at Mendon. On the court the teams will play, and off it Sutherland’s “Superfans” will try to out-yell the “Mendon Madness.”

“They’re kids,” Barker says. “They push the envelope.”

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