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Prep sports: Foothill’s other game

Student sections at six local schools have turned it up a notch during the 2013 league season

Posted: February 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.

From left: Canyon's Michael Hager, Valencia's Charlie La Vine, Hart's Baggio Saldivar, West Ranch's Stevie "Sturbs" Urbanovich, Golden Valley's Adam Garcia and Saugus' Miguel Sanchez are the leaders behind their schools student sections. Each school brought originality and passion to the sidelines during the 2012-13 high school basketball sea...

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There was a game being played in the gymnasium.

Two teams going at it with a goal to win.

There were blowouts, close games and classics this season.

That doesn’t even include what happened on the court.

The game was the one being played between the Foothill League’s student sections.

In a twice-a-week game of one-upsmanship, the six Foothill schools prided themselves on almost a fictional Foothill League title — the title of being the best student section in the Santa Clarita Valley.

In 2013, we saw heads on sticks, leis, white outs (where the entire student section is dressed in all white), street signs, a yard flamingo, a gnome and Moses.

The schools have pulled out all the stops.

“I’m not there to watch the game. I’m there to battle it out with the other student sections,” says Saugus High junior Miguel Sanchez — the leader of the school’s “Blue Krew.”

If there’s a commonality with all six schools, it’s that they have names and they all have leaders.

Canyon High has “Cowboy Country.” Hart High is “The Tribe.” Golden Valley has “The Den.” West Ranch has “The Pack.” And Valencia is “Viking Nation.”

The prerequisite for leadership is simple — you’re loud.

“You can’t be shy,” says Canyon senior Michael Hager. “I’ve got to make a fool of myself. Our goal is to have fun and support the basketball team.”

But at Valencia, it has become tradition that there is a leader selected each year and that leader is appointed by the previous regime.

“There was a big ceremony — a passing of the staff,” says Viking Nation leader Charlie La Vine, referring to a broomstick with a tennis ball on top, which is almost like a king’s scepter. “It’s a grueling process. It’s really private, confidential information.”

Viking Nation was featured in a Signal article in 2011 for its rowdiness, creativity and overwhelming student spirit, which made Valencia’s gymnasium one of the most hostile environments for opponents in the SCV. Think the “Cameron Crazies” at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University.

But Viking Nation not only motivated its athletes to play harder, it sparked the other schools to take action.

“My sophomore year, we saw that article and thought, ‘What the heck is that?’ That caught our eyes,” said Hart Tribe leader and senior Baggio Saldivar. “We’ve been here, I don’t know how long. Why don’t we get things going?”

Saldivar referred to Hart being the oldest school in the valley.

He says when he was a junior, the seniors at the school told the students they were disappointed in the lack of support they received from their classmates.

Hart High has now turned it up in 2013.

Moses was their gimmick.

They convinced quiet-natured baseball player Aaron Hamilton to dress up like the Biblical figure — long-haired wig, giant beard, white robe and a staff. He walked to the Hart High student section, all dressed in red, on Jan. 25 at West Ranch High, raised his staff, and the students parted like the Red Sea.

The section was at a fever pitch.

In that game, Hart basketball players noted how their student section made a difference in the game.

The Indians won the first-place Foothill League battle on the court.

It helps that the teams are winning.

Hart was out en masse for the game.

Fellow first-place (at the time) West Ranch was accompanied to games by what is arguably the largest student section in the valley.

Armed with props and with no lack of themes, The Pack has turned West Ranch High into a difficult place to play.

And it’s a unique collaboration between the team and its student section.

Stevie “Sturbs” Urbanovich leads The Pack a year after playing on the West Ranch basketball team.

He says he felt he was making a bigger impact with his fellow students than on the bench last season. He gave up basketball to make a contribution, he says, to his student section.

Urbanovich says some of the ideas for the student section have come from meetings that he regularly has with the West Ranch coaching staff.

If the Wildcats have the most support in the Foothill, the best effort might have belonged to Golden Valley.

The boys and girls varsity basketball teams were each 0-10 in the Foothill League.

Yet “The Den” never stopped supporting.

Students dressed up randomly, brought props, started chants and brought a humor to it.

Against Valencia at Golden Valley High, Viking Nation chanted “Badgers Suck” before recent University of Wisconsin commit Leon Jacobs went to the free throw line.

The Badgers are Wisconsin’s mascot.

Jacobs made the free throw.

The next time Jacobs went to the free throw line, “The Den” started chanting “Badgers suck,” hoping to anger Jabobs into making another free throw.

“I played football and the crowd was dead. I know how much that sucked,” said Den leader Adam Garcia. “I got the guys together so we could support the basketball team.”

It’s that sort of spirit that has spread across the valley — fueled by social media and a constant battle to see and hear who can top who off the court — not just on the court.

And each school is watching each other.

Reluctantly at first, all the student section leaders complimented what the other schools have done.

But then they all gave their respect to their rivals.

“To be honest, all the student sections have really come together this year,” Urbanovich says.

 

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