GREER — Sing the alma mater. Follow with the cheerleader dance-off. Then see which class can show the most spirit — but it’s not time to go home yet.
Before the Greer High School students close out the big pep rally in advance of the Blue Ridge High School rivalry game, they are going to burn the Tiger.
“It just shows what we expect to happen at the game,” Yellow jackets quarterback Mario Cusano, 17, said about igniting Blue Ridge’s mascot.
No real tigers were set on fire, nor were any Blue Ridge players lit up in the 32-7 scorching, the same could not be said of the school art team’s papier-mâché mascot, Bubba Cyrus, who was reduced to ashes as the Greer Fire Department watched. It’s something they do every year, and why not, said center Noah Hannon, 17.
“It’s a big game,” he said. “It gets everyone excited.”
Cusano said it’s the second pep rally the school has had this year, and he hopes there will be more as the team makes its playoff push.
“I feel like it builds up excitement for the game,” he said. “It gets everyone together in one space as a big school family.”
Though the “Blue Ridge” girls lost the dance-off skit at Greer as the football team took center court, the real cheerleaders aren’t upset.
“I love doing pep rallies,” added Ashley Foulk, 17, of Blue Ridge. “Not all of the students go to the football games, but everyone goes to the pep rallies. You get to cheer in front of the whole student body.”
Besides that, pep rallies give the cheerleaders a chance to show off their competitive cheer routines, said Caroline Bennett, 17, of Blue Ridge.
“I think more than at football games, pep rallies are where students get a glimpse of what we really do,” she said. “It’s exciting — there’s less stress and you get to see the student body.”
The football team is there to get fired up, the cheerleaders are there to create spirit and the band is there to provide the beat, but the student involvement doesn’t stop there. Hillcrest High School’s Adam Rogers, 18, and Kiana Hopkins, 17, are part of the student council that organizes the entire thing.
“We try to make it as big as possible,” Rogers said. “We want the student body to get really excited about the games and other school activities.”
They don’t burn a tiger, but they have games, such as a basketball shoot-off, cheer competitions that the students have been learning since freshman year and in general making sure everyone is loud enough to register on the decibel reader. Hopkins said the school gets hyped up for football, and why not? They made a big run last year.
“Last year, we went all the way to the state championship game for football,” she said. “Everyone comes together for school spirit.”
Hopkins and Rogers also emphasized that it’s not just about football. They make sure to honor other teams, such as the recent state champion volleyball program. And the spring sports will get a pep rally of their own.
Hillcrest does not host as many rallies they once did, but when the school has one, it’s big. So big that if you ask Athletic Director Tommy Bell about the pep rallies, he’ll tell you with pride they are the best in the area. But he doesn’t want you to just take his word for it.
Landri Tripp’s originally from Kentucky, and she had never experienced high school kids having this much fun at a pep rally.
“I came from a small school, and went to a small college. School spirit was not a forte,” the teacher and student council advisor said. “The first Hillcrest pep rally I went to, I was blown away by the sheer volume and enthusiasm the kids have.”
Ultimately, it’s about a purpose, and that is getting the student body ready for the big game.
“I think they are very important,” Rogers said. “Just having so many people surrounding you and yelling, it is going to get you revved up. It gets the team ready to play, knowing the students support you.”