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December 16, 1994

There is absolutely nothing like high school sports programs. The community lives and dies by them, agonizes with each of the home team's losses and delights in each victory. (Winning is definitely a lot more fun.) It doesn't matter how long you've been out of school, if you're part of the community you just cannot help but get into the spirit of things. That is probably much more the case in small towns like ours than in the so-called metro areas, but our friends in the big cities say they get just as caught up in the excitement as we do.

I well remember years ago when our family dentist and friend, the late Dr. A. M. Crowder, would pull on a bright red turtleneck sweater (they called it maroon) with a large letter "P" stitched onto the front side, and march around the square at homecoming time along with Quine Brengle Sr. and several others hanging out of a vintage roadster with the top recklessly pulled down. I used to wonder then, "Why?" Ansel Crowder was a short, chubby man, with only a wisp of hair, and he was not made for turtlenecks. His tummy protruded, not that that fazed him in the least.

Ansel was a cheerleader as a mature adult with as much or more energy and enthusiasm as any high school sophomore. He was a PHS Maroon letterman from the early days, and that's why he had that turtleneck. That's also why he had that spirit, and it was infectious. You couldn't watch Dr. Crowder and his friends parade around the square at homecoming without wanting to join them and to be in the stands for each and every game.

Now I'm numbered among the "older alums," as Ansel Crowder and Quine Brengle used to be, and now I know "why" they marched around the square like that years ago. It's being a part of the Maroon tradition, one of the proudest in the state, and you never get over it. Just check it for yourself in a few decades.

This year's Perry Maroon football team went to the class 3A playoffs, a notable achievement, and won some games they were expected to lose. (Isn't that right, Blackwell and Vinita?) Even when they lost, they provided enough excitement to keep the home folks entertained. We should be willing to settle for that, but I know the team isn't. I have a feeling they'll be aspiring to even greater success next season.

Congratulations to Coach John Dolezal, his assistants and every member of the squad, especially those seniors who will be missed so much next year. And I can't close out these comments without words of praise for the PHS band, directed by Sandy Hentges. The band stole the show everywhere they appeared, presenting big-time entertainment between halves. I was especially gratified to see that Sandy is teaching our young musicians some of the classics, like "String of Pearls" and "Jersey Bounce." Just kidding there, but I do love those big band numbers and the kids seem to, also.

Isn't it great that our football coach and band director are both hometown young people, products of the local school system and such worthy representatives of their professions? We just turn out good people, it seems. Long hours of practice and dedication of purpose do pay off. The cheerleaders, pom-pom girls, band members and athletes are finding out how true that is. Their early and late workouts yield many benefits now, and those disciplines will give then an edge all their life.

Just swinging into action are basketball and wrestling, now that the football equipment has been stowed for another year. In remarks to the Rotary club the other day, Coaches Leonard Shelton, Scotty Chenoweth and Danny Williams had some good things to say about the new wrestling season. Perry is the defending class 2A champion again - and isn't it great to be able to say that! We have nine or 10 experienced wrestlers for the nucleus of this year's team. Does that get you excited? And, of course, Coaches Shelton and Chenoweth, like Dolezal and Sandy Hentges, also are home grown products.

Basketball Coach Rocky Scott also spoke to Rotary at a later meeting, and he disclosed that something like 12 sophomores will be on this year's squad. Only one of this year's seniors had extensive starting experience last year, so Coach Scott says all of us (and that includes him) can expect the unexpected this season. But the entire squad is pumped up for action and he promises the team will be entertaining to watch whatever the final score may be.

If you want to help these young people in their athletic and musical endeavors, the best thing you can do is buy a ticket and be there to support them every time they have a game, a match, or a concert. They work hard to merit our support. Let's show them we appreciate their dedication.