Democrat and Chronicle
High school spirit soars
By Jeff DiVeronica
|(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
Hundreds of students, and some of the teachers, wear Superfans T-shirts,
which feature a Superman-like “S.” On occasion, even principal Liz Konar
“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
”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
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
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 — www.sutherland-superfans.com.
“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.
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
“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.
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
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.”
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.”