The Tosa Compass is the only dedicated Wauwatosa newspaper, providing quality news coverage. Your donation will support the student journalists of Wauwatosa East and West, helping us purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.
Friday Night Lights: The Story of Wauwatosa West Football, Cheer, Band, Student Section, and Dance
October 20, 2022
The support of the student section is an important part of bringing the energy, excitement, and passion to Friday nights. The organization of the student section is led by a handful of seniors who operate through social media to spread the word regarding game times, schedules, and the theme to dress in for each game.
The leaders of the student section came to be due to a variety of different reasons. For some, it was because of the connections they had with past student section leaders.
“I did know the seniors who passed [the role] down to me. They were some of my good friends and I’m only trying to be as good as they were,” said Caroline Callahan. Callahan is one of three seniors who run the instagram account, @tdubstudentsection.
The organization of the student section Instagram page has to happen nearly a week in advance before the actual game.
“The purpose of the Instagram page is to get everyone excited for our events and to make sure we are all involved in fun themes,” said Callahan.
As for picking the themes, Callahan tries to collect input from other students and ensure that there is variability between games.
“[We] pick themes by asking students and staff about their opinions, looking on social media, and trying new things,” said Callahan. “I post funny pictures of our athletes and students in clubs [and sports]. I want everyone to laugh and enjoy eachother,” she continued.
Once the theme is set in advance, the rest of the action happens the night of the game. While a variety of different seniors lead chants throughout the night, everybody usually looks to Thomas Hipke and Owen Smith.
“I kinda just fell into it. I’m loud and I feel like I can get across my voice pretty well,” said Hipke. As for Smith, his 6 foot 8 inch figure allows for easy visibility of what’s happening on the field and allows him to be seen easily by the crowd for chant cues.
As for picking what chants to start, the leaders say that it is all based upon the events within the game.
“[The chants are] based mostly on the flow of the game but I’ve gotten ideas from other schools too,” said Smith.
Hipke also emphasizes that it’s important to build chants off of the evergy from the opposing team’s student section.
“We usually just go with the vibe of the game until the other student section starts chanting and then we get right into it,” he explained.
Like with any team or group, the students section has its fair share of traditions that are kept consistent during each game. The patented spirit flag is brought to every home game, for every kickoff, everybody shouts “oh” and holds it out from the time the lineup is set until the kicker’s foot touches the ball. Everybody always sits during halftime to give way to the TDT performance and every second half it started with “roller coaster” where everybody stomps their feet and leans with the direction of the flag as it is pointed in different directions by one of the seniors. Then as the flag points straight up into the air, everybody rises to their feet in cheers and the second half of the game continues.
Win, loose, or tie, many students just appreciate the energy and atmosphere of being a part of the student section.
“I just really enjoy the environment [and] having a solid school community and helping to lead that,” said Hipke.
Throughout the entire football game, the Tosa West Cheer team leads the audience in chants and cheers while entertaining the audience during breaks in the game, whenever West scores, and during halftime.
“We really want to be the height of the game because we have to cheer the game on,” said Junior Amari Monk. ”Especially around this time, like for homecoming, for the pep rally and for competition. It just gets harder throughout the year. So we really just need to like mentally prepare ourselves for that.”
There are two types of cheer throughout the game: poms, which are done on the ground for short amounts of time, and stunts, which are done in the air and on the ground during longer breaks in the game. The East-West game and the homecoming game add extra pressure for the team.
Mental preparation is an important aspect of cheerleading. Because cheer is a sport meant to entertain, it can be extremely stressful to mess up.
“I just want people to understand that we are people too. We have feelings, like if you see someone fall or something, don’t just say ‘oh my god, she failed, that is so lame’. Or say something rude, because that really hurts our feelings because we put a lot of time and effort in. It’s just that sometimes things don’t go right,” said Junior Kayla Barki.
Additionally, the physical aspect of cheer can be stressful. Some stunts are difficult or dangerous.
“Cheer is very competitive. And I know a lot of people think cheer is just fun and it’s just gonna be like a breeze, but we really put a lot of stress and strain on our bodies,” said Barki.
Monk agrees: “It really is hard, just as hard as any other sport, just as hard as basketball, just as hard as football. You condition your body just like any other sport. It is very hard and it can drain you, mentally and physically.”
Although cheer is physically and mentally demanding, cheer can be rewarding.
“Learning difficult stuff and motivating your stunt group to get [a stunt], and hitting it multiple times is really fun,” Monk says.
Cheer can also provide a community throughout high school.
“I started to cheer last year. I joined cheer, because a friend wanted me to do it with her. And she ended up leaving, but I stayed because of my friends,” said Junior Xia McFadden.
“The best part of cheer is being with people who push you to do things out of your comfort zone,” said Barki.
Under the “Friday Night Lights” at the Wauwatosa West football field, Tosa West defeated Tosa East 48-0 on October 7th, 2022.
Playing football under the Friday Night Lights brings happiness to everyone involved.
“It’s quite exciting, especially the past couple years we couldn’t really play East. So being able to play them this year is going to be really exciting. Because last time we played them, I was a freshman and I wasn’t on the field at that time. It’s going to be amazing” said senior Connor Radaj.
Before a home football game, the energy is high among the players and coaches. Two hours before the game, the football team runs through padless play drills in the school learning center.
Each individual player also has their own traditions and preparations.
“Before each game, I like to blast some Chief Keef and hit my head on a few things” said junior safety and quarterback Ben Kortbein.
Kortbein also shared his predictions on the game and his excitement to play cross town rivals Tosa East.
“Playing against East feels good. There’s a lot of excitement around the game. There’s going to be a lot of people there, a lot of tickets have been sold, so it’s going to be really packed.” said Kortbein.
The week leading up to the game, chatter on social media runs high. The student run “student section” Instagram pages for Tosa West (@tdubstudentsection) and Tosa East (@tosa.studentsec) engage their fans and individual football players also engage in the discussions.
“There’s been a lot of talk on Instagram so I’m really excited to see West win by a lot. It’s going to be a very exciting game to be at, a very exciting game to play, and a very exciting game
to watch.” said Kortbein
Junior Robert Zuege also felt the social media hype contributed to his excitement.
“Playing East tonight feels really good. There was a lot of talk between both schools this whole week, so we’re going to show out for the fans.”
In order to prepare for all of that excitement and focus the energy on winning the game, the team has developed traditions to raise energy levels.
“Clapping and banging our chests gets us really hype and ready for the game,” said junior lineman and tackle Noel Tabifor.
According to the Tosa West coaching staff, playing on a Friday night brings additional challenges.
“We’re [the team] looking forward to this atmosphere. There will be a lot of people here and we want to make sure that we play a good football game for these fans.” said Tosa West Head Coach Ray Hubbard.
One of his main concerns is the health of the players.
“I hope to play a clean game and hope everyone comes out injury-free and hopefully we come out on top,” said coach Ray Hubbard.
Hubbard makes sure that everyone is completing what needs to be completed, calling on a high level of patience often. Hubbard acknowledged the lows, but also sang the player’s praises.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a season, but we’re in a good spot. I think we’re set up to finish the season strong and get into the playoffs and make something happen,” said Hubbard.
The football team relies on a number of student volunteers to provide additional support for the team.
Football manager Asia Thompson enjoys being a part of the atmosphere and helping the team.
“It feels really good to be able to be around the team, especially since I’m a senior and this is my last year at West,” said Thompson.
At the end of the game, the score was West’s 48 to East’s 0. A victory for the Wauwatosa West Trojans against the crosstown rival.
Following the victory, the appreciation between the coaches, fans, and players was evident.
“I love this school and I love the team. I am glad we brought home a victory for West, especially against East,” said Junior Noel Tabifor.
Zombies limp across the field. Trumpets sound a blaring alarm. For seven minutes of the Friday night football game, Wauwatosa West is in a zombie apocalypse. The marching band puts on a zombie-themed performance at the halftime show of football games and at competitions, called “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.”
“During the halftime show, we are one of your main sources of entertainment,” said Junior Ava Kellner, a marching bass drum. “We put on our seven minute show and really keep the crowd engaged and excited in between the first and the second half. “
While the marching band’s focus is on the music, performance is a large aspect of marching. Players wear costumes and uniforms, and march in different directions and speeds. Color guard provides an important visual component with red and green flags. All of these aspects combine to make an impressive performance.
“I think that it’s just so unique and different from most of the other music ensembles that students get exposed to,” said Kellner. “It is just a very unique way of getting to perform on the instruments that they know and perform on so often throughout their entire careers, but on a football field while moving around. “
Senior Anna Strand agrees. In comparison to a concert, marching band is more involved.
“It’s so much more high energy and fun. In a concert, [you’re] just sitting there and playing fancy music. In marching band you have so much to do. You’re like making a story through it,” she says.
Telling a story takes a lot of time. Practice started in the beginning of August with band camp. This intensive week-long program has practices from 6 to 8 hours per day in the August heat. After band camp, there were 2 rehearsals a week until school, and then 5 rehearsals a week during school. There are also more practices after school on Wednesdays for working with specific teams or judges.
“The most important thing I took away from marching band was time management,” says director Alex Hunt. “As well as being able to learn how to be a part of something that is bigger than just your own contribution, but rather that your contribution is part of a larger package and how you can be part of something that is successful by doing your individual job that makes the whole production better.”
Although marching band’s large time commitment can be seen as excessive, it allows players to become better players and better friends with their peers.
“My favorite part is definitely the people, and the amount of time we get to spend with them,” says Kellner. “Marching band is a big time commitment. So if you enjoy the people that you’re with, then it’s definitely a good experience and I enjoy that time that we spend together because we do practices, games, competitions, and then we also do outside activities like going to Culvers after every game, or something like that. So that’s definitely one of my favorite parts, just the bonding experience with the rest of the band members.”
Players in marching band must memorize their music as well as their positions and cues. Each player has 60 positions on the field, or “dots”. Players with additional roles like section leader or drum major have more responsibilities.
“We’re in front of the band, keeping them in time and having that as our responsibility to conduct but then outside of that we help plan a course for marching band or for the whole year,” said Strand, who is a drum major along with Dylan Heater and Steven Awve. “Mostly [we are] just like the head of the band and help connect the bridge between Mr.Hunt, our director and then the band.”
Strand is in her last year of band at West. “I’m hoping to go to a school that has some form of band and hopefully marching band with that, because marching band is one of my favorite aspects of band. But if it doesn’t, then I’m going to miss it. It’s like my sport.” Strand says.
The East-West football game was senior night for the band. Strand has four older siblings who participated in marching band. She will be the last of her family to leave the marching band.
“I’m very excited because high school has been so hectic with COVID and everything, and I feel like we’re having a good season. We’re gonna be recognized for everything we’ve been through. It’d be a nice bonding moment.”
Trojan Dance Team
The Wauwatosa West Trojan Dance Team or “TDT” has a decade long tradition of winning state and national awards and is a welcome and an iconic part of every Friday night home football game.
TDT brings spirit and energy throughout the game and provides an enthusiastic and high energy halftime dance performance.
“First we go and do the tunnel which is super fun. I really like when we do the national anthem, we’re all together. We all link arms and we’re right in front of the football team. Then we sit as a team and we watch the game, and we have a lot of fun. Nothing is negative and nothing scary anymore.” Said Sophomore Ava Schwantes.
The games are very important to them, and they want to do well because they are performing in front of their peers and representing their brand.
Peterson talks about the unforgettable feeling when TDT goes back into the stands to feel the support of the student section.
“You are wearing that TDT sweatshirt and they’re like, you did really good. They probably don’t know me, but they know what I am advertising. They know what I’m representing. And that’s what really to know like a reputation that was built as a team,” said Sophomore Abby Peterson.
TDT wants to make their school proud, along with their coach and each other. Their team is a family, and has an unbreakable bond. Before performing, everyone gets a sense of love and happiness. They have a connection that is stronger than they have ever experienced.
“Before we go on, we get in our huddle, and those people that are next to me are people that I love more than anything and that I do a lot for. When we’re in our huddle right before we go on, nothing else matters. I think it’s just happiness. You’re around people that you love and care about so much,” said Peterson.
They are also having a very different experience from their competitions. The difference between football games and competitions is the support they receive from football games. Their nervousness and excitement comes from a different place at competitions. Peterson talks about how when TDT is at competitions, they are performing in front of 1000 people they don’t know. But at school, she’s stressed, because they want to make West proud.
“I’m doing it with my team. I need to do good because we do it for each other. Like every time we do it for each other. We have a reputation to uphold. That’s what it’s about, dancing with your team and doing it for our coach and our student section,” said Schwantes.