Harry Pomeroy still wears his No. 52 jersey from when he played football at Toms River High School South back in the early 1960s.
And he’s been to just about every Indians game since.
“He’s always here,” said Dave Correll Jr., the school’s spirit director. “And he always stands in the same place to cheer on the team.”
Pomeroy and many other South faithful continue to support the school’s football program, despite some recent down years, and still sing along when the band plays “Old Indian Tom.”
“I’ve been coming to games most of my life,” said the 66-year-old Pomeroy, whose old jersey is decorated with dozens of pins and buttons he’s collected over the years. “And I don’t think the spirit here has ever died. We even had some bad years, but the spirit has always been great.”
Correll, whose father, Dave Correll Sr., helps lead that spirited effort from his perch in the announcer’s booth, said that tremendous school spirit begins with the first pep rally of the fall and lasts the entire season, no matter what the Indians’ record might be.
“Everybody buys into it here,” he said. “From the administration all the way down to the students, everybody’s involved in some way because that’s what this school’s been about since the beginning more than 100 years ago. Our football team could be 0-7 and you’d think we were winning games 50-0. It’s absolutely incredible.”
Asbury Park Press readers voted Toms River South as having the best school spirit during a recent online poll. South trounced its competition, garnering 60.7 percent of the vote. The next-highest in line was Manasquan, with a mere 17.3 percent, while Matwan swiped third with 12.6 percent. Brick Memorial and Point Pleasant Beach tied for fourth as each tallied with 4.7 percent of the vote.
South athletic coodinator and boys basketball coach John MacIntosh had been on staff at several Shore Conference schools — Central Regional and then Lacey after it broke from Central — before taking his position in Toms River. And even though he knew something of the legendary school spirit at South, he still “experienced culture shock.”
“I knew a little of what to expect, but after seeing it firsthand I was awestruck,” MacIntosh said. “This kind of spirit is what you want to see in every school. I’ve been in education for 30-plus years, and I’ve never seen anything like this here at South.”
In addition to the cheerleading and dance squads, the marching band, the indian chief and his team of indian scouts and the spirit-flag runners, Toms River South also has a smoking teepee it sets off every time the Indians score as well as a “victory” bell, often rung the amount of times as points scored up to that point in a particular game.
“Our school was built on spirit and pride, and thet tradition just carries on from year to year,” Correll said. “And it’s not hard to get the students involved. They know it takes a lot of work to do what we do here, and they’re all for it. And the truth is, that’s what makes being here so fun. Because what makes school fun? The spirit of our school and the students supporting their peers.”
The kicker each week is when the band takes to the hallways of the school on Friday afternoon, starting at 1:15 p.m., and parades through the school playing “Old Indian Tom.”
“Everybody certainly knows when Game Day is around here,” MacIntosh said. “When you have the badn marching through the halls, there’s nothing like it. And everybody’s supportive of it. The teachers are great and everybody just really enjoys the atmosphere because it’s phenomenal.”
Correll said the tradition gets passed on like a family heirloom.
“This is a community thing as much as a school thing,” he said. “And in many cases, the kids here now are a third or fourth generation, whose grandparents and parents went here. So they know the spirit and tradition of this school is what makes it the best at the Shore, and they just carry on that tradition.”
“There’s no place better — not in my eyes,” he said. “The spirit will always be alive here. It’s fantastic.”