Student sections making noise and creating school spirit

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Following his team’s 2-0 win over Bangor earlier this month, Edward Little hockey player Ben Cassidy said the Red Eddies were inspired by the cheering of their students.

That fan section takes ts rowdiness serious.

“We pride ourselves on trying to be the best fan section in the state,” senior Isaac Dumont said.

Whether or not the EL student section is Maine’s finest up for argument, but there’s little doubt that it has a perfect name: the Haunted House, a nod to Edward Little High School’s ghost mascot.

Dumont is the coordinator of the Haunted House this school year.

Griffin Mayhew, also a senior, has filled the same role for Mt. Blue High School’s Zoo Crew fan section the past few years.

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The goal of both fan sections, of course, is to be loud. But it’s also to come together, show school spirit and have fun.

“It builds a great community around the students,” Mayhew said. “And the students, I believe it impacts them positively. I hope it does.”

Mayhew resurrected the Zoo Crew during the summer between his sophomore and junior years. It had existed before, but the concerted effort of a student section had been dormant for a while.

“Nobody that I knew had done it in a few years, since like 2011,” Mayhew said. “I thought it would be a good idea to pick it back up, knowing that I loved going to all the games. And I thought, the more the merrier.”

When it comes to fan sections, these days there is more to it than just showing up. It’s showing up unified, often in the fashion sense.

There’s blackouts (everyone wears black) and white-outs (everyone wears white). Sometimes maroon-outs, or whatever a school’s primary color is.

Last week, for the boys’ basketball game against Mt. Ararat, the Haunted House had a Christmas theme, which meant the students showed up decked in holiday attire. The Zoo Crew has worn camouflage and hunting orange in the past.

For the biggest games, such as the Edward Little boys’ basketball team’s upcoming matchup with Portland on Jan. 5, the Haunted House goes with a beach theme.

“It’s a lot different. I remember last year at the Lewiston football game, it was like freezing rain outside, we had like 100 kids all dressed up in beach stuff,” Dumont said. “Everyone was freezing, but we were all just jumping and getting loud. I think the beach theme adds a lot of energy to the game.”

Dumont and Mayhew don’t work alone. Mayhew’s “crew” consists of Hunter Smith, Marshall Doyon, Jacob Miller and Olivia Schank. The Haunted House leadership consists of one person from each class: Joining Dumont, the senior, are junior Caleb Yarnevich, sophomore Giles Paradie and freshman Anson Perry.

These groups put time into planning the themes. Once they have an idea, they get it approved by their school’s athletic director or an administrator.

Then they spread the word.

As it has with most things, social media has taken student sections to the next level. Videos of chants hit YouTube and are shared and re-shared. Photos of large, themed-out fan sections from throughout the nation are retweeted on Twitter with the hashtag #studentsectiongoals.

Social media also helps fan sections get the word out about upcoming themes.

“Having the social media is an easier way for me than to go out to everybody at lunchtime,” Mayhew said. “It makes my job a lot easier.”

Dumont and the Haunted House coordinators created a poster that contained an entire schedule of themes for the winter sports and posted it on Twitter. They did likewise earlier this month with a list of chants they want to use this season.

Mayhew also uses social media to keep students updated on upcoming games, and to spread the word about the accomplishments of their fellow students, whether it’s retweeting newspaper stories or finding cross country results on MileSplit and passing them on.

Mayhew said it’s important to him that all of the school’s sports are recognized, not just football and basketball, and not just boys’ sports.

“One of the things that I tried to do from the beginning is not … be like, we only do stuff for the boys’ games,” Mayhew said. “We do stuff for the girls’ and the boys’ games, just as evenly as we can.”

In fact, one of the most attended sports by the Zoo Crew is field hockey. The students even had T-shirts made during the Cougars’ stellar regular season in 2016 that said, “Jody Harmon for president.” (Harmon is the Mt. Blue field hockey coach).

Mayhew also had Zoo Crew shirts made. He sold both shirts for $10 each, and with the profit he created a bank account for future Zoo Crew projects. (The Haunted House also had T-shirts, which were made earlier this year by a sponsor for the basketball tournament.)

The Zoo Crew also made shirts earlier this school year, and this time for a good cause.

Mt. Blue participated in WGME’s School Spirit Challenge, in which schools from around the state compete to raise food for the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Mt. Blue came in second place, raising, Mayhew said, more than 32,500 pounds of food. The school’s athletic teams played a big role — “We had student-athletes probably bring in 75-80 percent of the cans and the donations,” Mayhew said — but the fan section also helped by sending out reminders and selling shirts, from which all of the proceeds were donated to Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Dumont said that he hopes when he has kids of his own in high school that the fan section will still be going strong. For now, he said the Haunted House makes school more fun, even for kids who aren’t sport fans.

“Just the memories. I think, without the fan section, it gives everyone something to look forward to every week, and just creating memories,” Dumont said. “I think our senior year wouldn’t be as fun without the fan section.”

Edward Little High School’s student section, known as the Haunted House, cheers at a recent hockey game against Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Griffin Mayhew, front, leads the Mt. Blue High School students in a cheer as part of the School Spirit Challenge earlier this school year. (Submitted photo)

Lewiston High School student section during a recent hockey game against rival Edward Little. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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