LANCASTER – Planning for the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette Battle of the Fans was no small order for Fisher Catholic High School.
Students spent hours brainstorming, designing and creating posters, and decorating the gymnasium. Hours, they agree, that were well worth it.
“I formed so many friendships just from getting involved with this,” Nick Bermoy, one of the leaders of the Irish Army, said. Bermoy is a senior at Fisher Catholic and said he was inspired to lead the Irish Army by seniors past. He and co-leader Luke Hughes worked with peers, alumni, school principal Maureen Beck, and the janitorial staff to make their ideas come to life this basketball season.
Fisher Catholic High School students won the first Eagle-Gazette Battle of the Fans after two rounds of competition against five other schools in Fairfield County. Students were encouraged to contact the Eagle-Gazette if they wanted to participate in the competition and then prepare to be judged during games on their organization, creativity and sportsmanship.
“Luke and I just wanted to have a great experience with the student section and bring everyone together, so we thought it was a good idea to get involved,” Bermoy said.
Bermoy dressed as a leprechaun for both rounds of the Battle of the Fans competition, something he got the privilege of doing because he took the initiative to go to Party City for the costume. The Irish Army won a lot of creativity points when Bermoy battled the Grove City Christian Eagle after the third quarter of their second round game.
Also, during the second round game, the Irish Army put together a skit where they were looking for recruits to join their forces. The potential recruits wearing Fairfield Union and Bloom-Carroll gear (the other two second-round schools) did not make the cut.
But, the Irish Army actually did get recruits from other schools during the competition. Beck said that by the second round some Lancaster High School kids had donned camouflage and joined the Irish Army for the second round game against Grove City Christian.
But, perhaps what stood out the most for the Irish Army was their means of welcoming the Irish players to the floor. The gym lights went out and the sparklers the students were holding went on, creating an electric atmosphere before the start of their games in both rounds.
And that energy is definitely reflected on the floor. The Irish defeated Fairfield Christian Academy in their first round game for Battle of the Fans. The win came in the final seconds of overtime for the underdog Irish team, as Parker Brady drained his two final free throws with less than one second to play. The teams face off again Friday. This time the Irish will be on the road.
“There are games where you play and no one’s there, and then you have games like FCA and GCC where the entire gym is packed and its just the craziest environment you could think of for a high school basketball game,” senior point guard Eli Frazier said. “Those are nights I’ll never forget here at Fisher.”
And it’s not just the players on the floor that benefit from a lively student group in the stands. Adriana DeGenova has been a cheerleader at Fisher since her freshman year. She said that all of the hours that went into decorating the gym were worth it for the energy it helped generate from the crowd of parents and teachers.
“It helps us cheer louder and just be more peppy, which gets the crowd going… it’s like a circle,” DeGenova said.
The whole school seemed to turn out for both rounds of the competition, bringing their energy and hours of creativity to game night.
“It really shows how much… we really are going to miss [high school],” Hannah Wilt, a senior at Fisher Catholic, said. “It’s exciting to know we all did it together.”
Beck helped with the competition by fielding ideas from students and helping to organize the more elaborate and expensive ones. She said that parents even called in to make donations that would help offset the costs of the decorations and t-shirts.
“I think it reminds the students and staff why we are really here, which is to enjoy each others’ company and to have fun together in a positive light,” Beck said. “All of the best of the sport comes together in a competition like this…. It was an all-Irish community effort.”