Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rise and Shout

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rise and Shout

Article excerpt

The Sarasota Sailors get a jump on Friday night football with a weekly 'Morning March' that starts at 7 a.m.

Editor's note: A weekly "Prepped" series of features begins with a look at a Friday football tradition.

Lots of high schools have Friday football traditions, but none of them start earlier than the Sarasota Sailors.

They start to cheer before school opens. They start to cheer before class begins. They start to cheer before the sun rises over the school auditorium.

It's called the "Morning March."

Students get off the bus at 7 a.m. to find the school courtyard filled with hundreds of classmates in orange and black. They hear the drums and horns of the Mighty Sailor Band. Cheerleaders cheer, players chant and students play along.

"Everyone's really chopped up this year," says Autumn Byrd, who painted an SHS anchor on her cheek last Friday. "It's really fun as a senior. It's fun seeing the reactions of the underclassmen."

This year, for Morning March, the Sailor football team has stopped wearing jerseys and started wearing white shirts and ties.

Briyance Adams, a sophomore defensive end, got one of the coaches to help knot his orange-and-white striped tie. He's still getting used to Friday mornings.

"It's really early to be out here, but it wakes you up," Adams says. "It wakes you up."

The Morning March was a Sarasota High School tradition before Principal Jeff Hradek arrived 12 years ago. He doesn't know who first got the idea, but he's happy to keep marching.

"When students own the school, when they feel a part of something, everything's better," Hradek says. "It makes it fun on a Friday. It gets 'em going and then you don't have to interrupt the school day."

Rise and cheer

At 6:30 a.m., it's still dark, but the Sarasota High cheerleaders gather under a streetlight.

They practice jumps and shouts. They practice climbing up and down pyramids. They practice the kind of chants high school squads have been doing for decades.

We made it to the top, we're solid as a rock.

We can't be stopped, because we're (clap, clap) hot!

Emily Shirley, a junior cheerleader, brought along something to eat -- waffles with cashew nut butter.

"I don't have time for breakfast in the morning," she says. "It's difficult getting up, but it's worth it."

The Sarasota High cheerleaders wear orange outfits during the day, then switch to black for the ballgame. Or vice versa.

"It's for the shock value," Shirley says.

Ciara Bernatt, senior cheer captain and student government vice president, is a third-generation Sarasota High School student. Her family history is part of school tradition.

"Looking at the old yearbooks, they had parades and things like that," she says. "School spirit was really big back then."

Bernatt wonders if students today care as much about Sailor pride and Friday football. …

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