THE GRIND: West Forsyth's Landen BowmanShot by Micah Green Edited by Paul Dybas
NORTH FORSYTH -- Prep football is in the air and campuses are teeming with pride as the 2015 season gets under way tonight for three Forsyth County public school teams.
“I’m excited to see how the boys play. And to be there on Friday, when you can only hear … the stands. You can’t hear the team. You can’t hear yourself,” said Hana Chung, a senior and captain of North Forsyth’s varsity cheerleaders.
North has the only home game tonight, with Central and West on the road. Lambert and South Forsyth are off after both opened their seasons last week.
The Raiders are ready. Morgan Searing, also a senior and captain, said she is looking forward to her final year on the North sidelines and bonding with the 32 other girls who will be cheering alongside her.
“It helps the players to have everyone behind them,” Searing said. “The louder the crowd, the better they’ll do.”
Both Searing and Chung have cheered all four years at North, but they said the feeling extends beyond the team and football.
“It’s a family atmosphere,” Chung said. “We’re all in it together.”
They’ve been in it together for some time, too.
“A lot of them have grown up together, and they’ve been in the same programs, so they’re really cheering on each other,” said Paige Galt, varsity cheerleading coach at North.
That spirit of family and camaraderie does not stop at the cheerleaders, or the football team, or even the student section.
“Something that Principal [Jeff] Cheney has brought to North [in his first year since transferring from South] is an effort to reach out to the community, so we’ll have a family faculty night and a dinner and bouncy house for staff and their kids [today],” Galt said. “It’s become a true community event.”
North’s celebrated Marine Corps Junior RTOC team will line the field tonight as the Raiders welcome Cherokee, and the three feeder middle schools will attend.
“We had a rough season last year. We had a lot of younger players, and they’re hungry for success,” Galt said. “The students are hungry for success, and you can see it in the student section and throughout the community.
“Cheney has brought the idea that ‘everything is possible.’ It’s the driving ideal behind this year.”
Just because some schools have not played a home game yet does not mean their energy is any lower.
“One of our goals in general since I’ve gotten here is to build up school spirit in general,” said West Forsyth Principal Heather Gordy. “We want our students to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Football always helps with that because you can get large groups of people involved.”
West’s home football schedule does not start until Sept. 11, when the Wolverines will play host to Chattahoochee. But Gordy said the school has found ways to keep up the hype.
West held a student tailgate and packed the stands for a scrimmage last week, and plans to send a group to the Sept. 4 game at Alpharetta.
“Our student government does a good job, but they’ve also realized it takes more than just them,” Gordy said. “So they’ve gone out and worked with the Gulo Gang, a spirit organization, and they’ve really focused on inclusiveness.”
Last year, nearly the entire student body participated in the making of a viral lip dub video that took the county by storm and eventually won a high school Emmy.
“Football is great, but it’s all the teams. We have a lot of fall sports,” Gordy said. “That feeling [from the video] is still there. We’re about building traditions. All of us coming together and being a part of West Forsyth High School, being a Wolverine.”
For other schools, the significance of the year itself has been enough to lift spirits.
Mitch Young, principal at Forsyth Central, said every home game will have a theme, from inviting feeder teams to a fall festival tailgate.
Alumni from back to 1955 are invited to honor the team’s 60th anniversary at a pregame reception Sept. 4 and by walking the field before kickoff against visiting Woodland.
“We have announcements throughout the week. We have cheerleaders decorating signs. On Fridays, instead of bells, it’s the fight song,” Young said.
A different alum’s story will be broadcast each day next week during morning announcements. Players will visit feeder schools during weeks of home games to invite them out that Friday.
“We’re coming off the best season we’ve had in 13 years,” Young said. “There’s a natural buzz, we don’t have to stir up. It’s there.”