Championship football from a cheerleader’s perspective

Published 9:40 am Tuesday, December 5, 2023

By Mary Couch

Boyle County High School

Frequent football spectators know that the view matters. Seat location and vantage points can make a big difference in the level of excitement and immersion into the action.

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Standing on the sideline, just below the stands, are the cheerleaders. With front-row access, years of football-watching experience under their belts, the cheerleaders are always involved.

Each game begins the same: cheerleaders hold up the paper run-throughs for the team to burst through, tearing the witty phrase proclaiming victory into a bunch of little pieces. A cheer called “Are You Ready?” begins, the perfect way to get people geared up.

It does help, of course, that Boyle County is an easy team to cheer for. There have been many games where the cheer team was cut off during the opening cheer, just to turn around and find that the Rebels had already gone for a touchdown.

For the past four years, Boyle County has made it to the football state championship, and won the last three that they played in. Everyone has grown accustomed to victory.

It is the expectation for everyone when they walk out on the field Friday night that they are bringing home the win, and that they will do so every week until the state title is theirs. For them, this is just the way things are done. But for me, it is a whole new experience.

As a senior in high school, I have only attended Boyle County for the last two years. Coming from a large school in Florida where football was not at the forefront of everyone’s mind and the running clocks were against us, I know what it looks like for the stands to be barren. When I first came to Rebel Stadium, the turn out was a shock.

Showing up on Friday nights, we are met with an unbeatable atmosphere. Typically, the cheer team will show up to the turf about an hour before the game, and already the crowd is filling in. It is not just the parents of the players, but extended family, former players, and even students from across town or a few towns over just looking for a show. They pack the stands from top to bottom.

A key aspect of Friday nights, though, are the Rebel Rowdies. Boyle County’s Pep Club encourages students to come to decked-out in different themed clothing, ranging from beach attire, Mardi Gras beads, circus clown noses or Christmas sweaters.

They create a sense of unity and add a touch of fun, especially when the cheerleaders can wear hair bows that tie into the theme, or get everyone so involved in a cheer that it shakes the stadium bleachers.

One standout theme was the black-out on Nov. 17, when the Rebels faced off against the Corbin Redhounds in the third round of State playoffs. The bleachers were packed with Boyle fans all dressed in black.

This was a huge game, as it was a repeat matchup of the state championship last year. Boyle hosted the game and pulled out all of the stops to intimidate their challenging opponent.

Many students were involved in the preparations all week long. They painted enough banners to line the fence of the stands, each one with a message unique to a starting player. Students also painted and filled milk jugs to make black-out noise makers, which were passed out to fans to make some noise.

The visitors side also filled their stands and all along the perimeter of the field. The whole stadium was standing room only, with people filling in wherever available. The stadium had never been so loud as when the Rebels took home the victory that night.

Fan support is unbelievable, but it doesn’t make the pressure any less. The players put in a lot of work during their season, as most practice five days a week and play one.

Cheerleaders also put in a lot of effort to contribute to the game night atmosphere, practicing two or three times a week for an hour and a half. Learning cheers and stunts for the football season and the upcoming boys and girls basketball season, on top of cheer competitions, keeps us plenty busy.

Being associated with such a successful school has provided many exclusive experiences. When preparing for the state championship game, cheerleaders and players paraded through the Boyle County elementary schools.

Hallways lined with excited young kids chanting “Rebels!” is a true testament to the ageless love of the game.

The team gives everyone an opportunity for the cinematic high school experience. I am so grateful for this season with the Rebels and the lifelong memories I made.