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Redhawks flock together for Friday Night Lights

Each+week%2C+students+from+all+across+campus+make+their+way+to+one+of+three+stadiums+to+watch+the+football+game.+Friday+Night+Lights%2C+however%2C+is+much+more+than+that.+These+are+the+stories+of+those+behind+a+high+school+staple%2C+Friday+Night+Lights.
Michael Martin
Each week, students from all across campus make their way to one of three stadiums to watch the football game. Friday Night Lights, however, is much more than that. These are the stories of those behind a high school staple, Friday Night Lights.

A hallmark of the high school experience.

An event that unites students from football, to Student Council and photography.

Every Friday, Redhawks across campus flock together for a weekly staple: Friday Night Lights.

But what is seen under the lights at Kuykendall Stadium, Toyota Stadium, and the Ford Center at The Star, is the finished product – a culmination of work that begins hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months in advance.

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These are the stories that make up Friday Night Lights.

Haley Ward

It takes months of planning for the football games, and creating the themes for the games started last school year in Student Council.

“At the end of last school year, the incoming seniors in Student Council got together to come up with some themes for football games after the school filled out a form we made,” Student Council vice president, senior Lily Leyden said. “Then over the summer Haley and I got together to finalize the football themes. Over the course of these past weeks we have just been planning out posters and stuff to go with the themes.”

At the end of last school year, the incoming seniors in Student Council got together to come up with some themes for football games after the school filled out a form we made

— Student council vice president, senior Lily Leyden

Each week Student Council members work to create the posters in the hallways on game days and the graphics.

“The week before a game our social media committee creates graphics to post to instagram,” Leyden said. “These graphics remind students of the time, date, place, and theme for the football game. We also create large posters for the stairs with the same information.”

Student Council social media officer, senior Kate Ashmore enjoys the weekly work of advertising for each game.

“Our committee just gets together to make graphics for each week’s football game,” Ashmore said. “It is a lot of fun just getting to make graphics that correspond with the themes for the school to see.”

Rin Ryu

The football game may be on the field, but the sidelines offer another attraction with the cheerleaders pepping up the student section and fans.

“Once we get [to the game], we set out our poms and make sure the team is lined up, and then we start stretching and warming up,” cheer co-captain, senior Malia Willingham said. “Once we do that, we get ready to run out with the football players and dance to the band! We make sure we keep the school spirit alive, and we switch off calling cheers.”

Preparation for each football game starts during practice, according to co-captain, senior Carsyn Bianchin.

We make sure we keep the school spirit alive, and we switch off calling cheers,

— Cheer co-captain, senior Malia Willingham

“For game day during the class period, we like to go over different cheers, dances, and stunts to prepare for the game that afternoon,” Bianchin said. “Outside of practice, I start by planning our uniform and outfit that we will be wearing to correspond with the theme of the week. We also plan what to do with our hair and decide if we want to use any glitter or face paint to pull the look all together. We typically wear our uniform to school that we will be wearing to the game and do fun face paint right before we get on the bus.”

It is a group effort by Willingham, Bianchin, and the cheer team to create a sideline full of energy and spirit at the game.

“Carsyn and I have a shared note that has everything you could need to lead the team,” Willingham said. “It has each of our games with what we are wearing, the time, location, music links, list of cheers, and so much more! Every week we send out a message to our team after we have planned out each game.”

Michael Martin

You can catch them strutting down the field in their fringe, ready to perform their classic kickline routine: the Red Rhythm Dance team.

We do victory lines, the lines that the football players run through at the beginning of the game, once we get there and cheer in the stands at half time,

— Red Rhythm captain, senior Reva Kabnurkar

“We do victory lines, the lines that the football players run through at the beginning of the game, once we get there and cheer in the stands at half time,” Red Rhythm captain, senior Reva Kabnurkar said. “Then we perform at halftime. And if we do well, we get 3rd quarter to visit with friends and family! Then at 4th quarter officers meet with the other teams officers. Then we do fight song and head back to the school.”

To create the pristine lines and clean motions featured in their routines, practice for Red Rhythm members starts in the summer.

Frisco Sports Network/Ford Center at The Star

“The planning for a football game starts in the summer where we learn all our routines for the season,” Red Rhythm dance officer, junior Grace Morgan said. “We polish each routine throughout the year to get it looking good for half time. The day before the game, we run our dance with the band and participate in the theme that week, which is always fun seeing everyone all dressed up.”

For Morgan, halftime during the football games offers a way to showcase the team’s hard work in the program.

“At halftime we make our way down to the field and perform our routine for that week,” Morgan said. “I love seeing all of our hard work being showcased for our school and dancing alongside my friends.”

Jason Helmick, JHelmickPhotography

While many eyes are on the field, many ears are listening to the tunes created by the Redhawk band, in the stands during the game and on the field during halftime.

“On a typical game day, I do my show hair in the morning and come to school to do the rest of the girls hair for the game,” band president, senior Sanjana Vallampati said. “Around the end of 4th period, we leave to go quickly eat and then load our semi truck. After that we have a quick moment to change into to full uniform and be ready at inspection by 5:01. Then we get to the game, unload, perform, and then pack up the truck and leave.”

We’ll also make sure that behavior in the stands are going good, and just having fun and keeping the spirit up.

— Drum major, senior Hannah Lee

Although the band is required to be in their uniforms, many members find creative ways to dress up for game days.

“We do the face paint and stuff, then we get changed into uniforms,” senior Arnav Sareen said. “We can’t do anything with physical clothing for the themes, but a lot of the time a lot of us just use face paint to go with the theme. So for pink out, we did  the ribbons on our faces with paint and then also we’ll add our own ribbons to put on our uniforms.”

The songs played by the band are set by the band directors, and conducted by student drum majors, who manage band members during the game.

Frisco Sports Network/Ford Center at The Star

“During the game, one of the drum majors is in charge of being on the podium, and that’s just kind of being with the directors and basically leading all the conducting,” Lee said. “Then the other three of us will be in the stands and also conduct for the song, but we’ll also make sure that behavior in the stands are going good, and just having fun and keeping the spirit up.”

“We have like a little snippet that we play every time we get a first down,” Sareen said. “We play the fight song every time we get a touchdown. So besides that, the songs we play are random. And then we play ESPN at the beginning.”

The songs played also related to the moves made on the field.

Then we get to the game, unload, perform, and then pack up the truck and leave,

— Band president, senior Sanjana Vallampati

At halftime, the band makes their way onto the field to perform their competition show, which they’ve been working on since the summer.

“For a halftime performance, to prep, we have to make sure we have all our equipment loaded on to our semi trailer,” Vallampati said. “Once we get to the game, we set up all of our instruments plus the electronics like mics and speakers. We then get told what portions of the show we are playing that day and then we perform.”

Rin Ryu

At a Redhawk football game, not much ramps up the crowd quite like band’s signature routine: headchoppers.

All the other schools that try it can’t beat the original: us,

— senior Maggie Wang

“We have headchopper practice after band rehearsal and have a system to pass off those who are actually able to do the routine since not everyone can,” senior Gabi Malyar said. “Each week we add a new type of headchopper to the routine as well as bump the tempo up.”

While trombones execute the choreography, percussion provides the cadence.

“Percussion starts headchoppers with the tenors and we bring the backbone and the groove of the cadence,” senior Maggie Wang said. “We also control time and make sure trombones are together.”

Every week, the choreography and tempo level up.

“Each week there is a new routine. Typically it gets more advanced with the moves such as harder spins, more confusing counts, line changes and occasionally, foot choppers,” Wang said. “It also gets much faster. At the beginning of the season, we were going 120 BPM, and now we’re at about 170 BPM.”

Headchoppers is a crowd favorite for many students at the football games, energizing the student section.

“I think it’s a crowd favorite because it’s really cool to watch, it’s been a tradition for several years, and we’re the best at it,” Wang said. “Out of all the schools, we have the most complex routines, we do it the fastest, and are the staple of head choppers, especially in Frisco. All the other schools that try it can’t beat the original: us.”

Jason Helmick, JHelmickPhotography

From waving flags to throwing rifles, color guard brings the marching band’s music to life on the sidelines and the field.

“Mr. [Eric] Mills, the color guard director, and I will get information from Mr. [James] Weaver or Ms. [Cecily] Yoakam, the band directors, on what parts of the marching band show we will be performing at the game,” color guard captain, senior Ashton Hatch said. “That tells us what equipment we will need to bring and we’ll decide if we do individual flag bags or group bags to bring said equipment.”

We support the band, so it is important we look well put together and nice,

— senior Shriya Vedula

As captain, Hatch is ready to assist other color guard members if need be.

“I make sure to be ready and available to help them if they have any questions and during inspection the officers and I check our lines to make sure they have everything they need and are ready,” Hatch said. “I will grab the band leadership team walkie-talkie so I can listen to any messages from the band directors and make sure Mr Mills doesn’t need anything from me.”

The halftime performance is the pride and joy for the color guard, as they act as a visual representation of the marching band’s music. This year they perform their 2023 UIL show: A Common Thread during halftime.

Frisco Sports Network/Ford Center at The Star

“There is a ton of planning and coordination that goes into the halftime performance,” color guard director Eric Mills said. “We have to learn the choreography for half time and stand dances during the summer and early fall. We also have to learn our drill spots on the field for the halftime show. We also have to coordinate things like ‘how to set up your equipment’, and ‘how to get on and off the field’. It really comes down to lots of small details.”

The day of the football game means getting ready as soon as school ends, for officer senior Shriya Vedula.

“A game day for color guard usually involves getting out of class and then immediately preparing the equipment we are going to spin; getting ready with makeup, hair, clothing etc; and making sure everyone has what they need to have a successful and stress-free game day,” Vedula said. “We support the band, so it is important we look well put together and nice.”

Jason Helmick, JHelmickPhotography

A common sight on the field is student trainers, weaving in and out of players and coaches to help keep the team in shape.

For trainers, planning for the game day is a weekly ordeal.

“Planning for game days is roughly the same each week,” senior Ally Smith said. “We make sure our kit is stocked, we have our Gatorade racks, our packs, and all of the snacks needed for the locker room.”

Although they aren’t playing, the trainers stay on the field the entire game.

We make sure our kit is stocked, we have our Gatorade racks, our packs, and all of the snacks needed for the locker room,

— senior Ally Smith

“During 4th period before we leave for games we set the truck up and get everything ready. I always double check with the other trainers that we have what we need for the game so we don’t forget things behind that could be beneficial,” senior Krissy Ferguson said. “After we get done setting up we make sure we eat and stay hydrated before we leave so we don’t have to worry about rushing to eat waiting for the game to start.”

Each trainer takes on different roles to get everything ready for the game.

“We all have different jobs to make sure everything is ready for kickoff. Usually I set up all of the coolers of water and Gatorade in the locker room and the snacks,” Smith said. “Once kickoff starts we all have assigned jobs to make sure everyone is taken care of. We take care of timeouts, benches, and boys coming off the sideline.”

The student trainers keep the team in good shape, but also get to learn important skills about treating and training athletes.

“My favorite part about being a trainer is making memories on the field with my friends and getting to see our team, although we aren’t the best team it’s fun laughing and feeling apart of the team,” Ferguson said. “I also get to learn taping and treatment which goes into what I want to do when get to college.”

Jason Helmick, JHelmickPhotography

“We choose the best photographers to go out on the field and the day before they need to have a field pass and camera lens checked out to take to the game,” yearbook editor, senior Tayyaba Mazhar said.

Each week, yearbook photographers capture the action of the game from the sides of the field to include in the yearbook.

“On game day photographers enter the field with their field pass and immediately get down to the field,” Mazhar said. “They then set up their camera and make sure the exposure and shutter speed are set to what they need to be. Camera settings don’t look the same for everyone as we have several different cameras and lenses so we recommend getting to the game early to see what setting to use for your camera. The final step is just capturing the pictures.”

Some people make it a point to go to every single game and support the team,

— Yearbook Editor-in-Chief, senior Madeline Wong

Some staff photographers embrace the themes set up by Student Council and deck out on the sidelines.

“I mean, I just wear black, but people do dress up,” yearbook Editor-in-Chief, senior Madeline Wong said. “Like photographers, if they want to, they can dress up. Some people get really excited about it. Some people make it a point to go to every single game and support the team.”

For Mazhar, her favorite part of the game is supporting from the sidelines.

“My favorite part of game day was just being able to be on the field and see all of my friends in cheer, band perform and take photos of them as well as the players,” she said.

Isabelle Engles

The themes planned by Student Council are often found on display in the student section at each game.

“We meet at my friends house to get ready every week,” senior Mauli Karapurkar said. “Sometimes we get accessories from Party City to match the theme. Dressing up with friends is super fun.”

Some students keep it casual for games, but others, such as senior Isabelle Engles, go all out.

“I like dressing up because it’s super fun to be matching with everyone in the stands and see everyone’s outfits,” Engles said. “Dressing up also helps us bring out our school spirit because it allows all of us to be creative.”

Many students are in the stand every week not just for the football team, but also for everything else Friday Night Lights has to offer.

Dressing up also helps us bring out our school spirit because it allows all of us to be creative,

— senior Isabelle Engles

“My favorite part of the game is when everyone starts getting all excited after we score,” Engles said. “I also love halftime, especially watching band do headchoppers.”

The students in the stands are also energized by a key figure on campus: mascot Rocky the Redhawk.

“During the games I stand next to the cheer squad and do some cheers with them on a lower scale,” Rocky said. “I also take pictures with people and do my best to get the crowd more into the game.”

Regardless of the outcome of the field, the student section often brings energy to the game.

“I think Friday Night Lights is such a staple part of being in high school and the high school experience,” senior Eva Soto said. “I try to go to as many games as I can. Even if the way the game goes isn’t always how we want, its still so fun to dress up with everyone else and be in the stands to cheer on not just the team, but also band, drill team and everyone else.”

Rin Ryu

The football team is the final piece of Friday Night Lights.

Each player has their own ritual for getting ready for the game, sometimes taking the whole day to prepare.

“Game day I eat a big breakfast, drink plenty of fluids and don’t let my school work stress me out,” senior Jake Miller said. “I watch a lot of film and get my mind right and try to get rid of distractions. I run through plays in my head and situations during school. Have a walk through during fourth period and listen to music or watch highlight videos to get hype. Travel, get dressed, warm up, play hard, go to Canes.”

Travel, get dressed, warm up, play hard, go to Canes

— senior Jake Miller

For senior Trey Laurent, the energy on game day is unique.

“Game days are always different from the rest,” Laurent said. “I wake up and feel 100% more locked in. I always need to have good food before the game and make sure to stay hydrated so i can compete at my highest level.”

Despite tough games in the past, the team stays motivated to keep pushing forward.

“My favorite part is the beginning of the game when nothing is decided and everyone’s going 100%,” Miller said. “Nobody knows how the games gonna go and we’re the only thing that can decide what happens.”

The team has to overcome not only their opponents, but internal barriers.

“Belief, belief that doing our jobs with great effort is enough to win,” head coach Matt Swinnea said. “It is difficult to beat an opponent, but it is really difficult to have to overcome yourself as well.”

I also love that fact that I get to play with my brothers by my side,

— Senior Trey Laurent

Week after week, a bond had developed and strengthened amongst the boys.

“My favorite part is the thrill that I get knowing that I get to compete today and try to win a competitive battle against my opponent across from me ,” Laurent said. “I also love that fact that I get to play with my brothers by my side.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on October 27, 2023.