The national anthem blares through the Friday night air as the tension slowly rises to a climax – the game is about to begin. Savagely painted bodies and elaborate costumes of spirit wear form an ocean of blue and green which ripples and swirls with the excitement of the crowd. Screams of “This is our nest!” signify Nighthawk unity and spirit. Finally, the time has come.
Flashes of blue streak the field as players rush up and down the gridiron hungering for victory. The ball is thrown from the chaos of the quarterback’s pocket, hanging defiantly in the air, ready to be caught at the last possible second. The Flock, Del Norte’s spirit section, falls silent as the ball glides through the air. In the end zone, the ball finds the receiver’s gloved hands and the crowd suddenly erupts in a thunderous roar that shakes the stadium. TOUCHDOWN NIGHTHAWKS!
If you have had the pleasure of watching Del Norte’s boys fight for victory out on the field then this Friday night scene seems familiar. But what makes this glorious moment possible? What kind of work goes in to making the big play?
The off-season. Definition: a punishing period of intense workouts, seemingly endless practices, and grueling summer days, meant to harden, strengthen, and unify a team.
“Off-season workouts are very essential: they are the overall factor in how good the team is going to be,” says Nighthawk football Captain George Liang (12).
Training tirelessly, the boys have not only prepared physically, but mentally as well. Every movement, every play is choreographed a certain way and ingrained in each player’s mind through constant repetitious practice. According to Head Coach Leigh Cole, the new strength and conditioning coach Rob Mamula has played a crucial role in the team’s physical development.
Receiver Chad Wetzel (12) explains, “Everyone is ten times better than they were last year and everyone trusts that the guy next to him will get the job done.”
Similarly, linebacker Anthony Toia (12) says, “We are more focused, more experienced, and better prepared to face other teams this season.”
“Besides physically, I’ve seen [the team] really develop their leadership, team unity, and trust, which are maybe the most import things to have in football,” says Coach Cole. However, the true test of the effectiveness of hard work lies in the results of the Friday night battles of the regular season.
Fast forward to the Nighthawks’ first game against Rancho Buena Vista High School. Chants of “NIGHTHAWKS, YOU KNOW!” could be heard down on the field as the crowd cheered in anticipation, wondering just how well the off-season training would translate into winning the game. Nighthawks and Longhorns collided and for four straight quarters Del Norte’s boys could not be contained. Gaining a significant lead of 20 by the end of the first half, the Nighthawk team seemed invincible. And as the final seconds of the game clock approached zero the Nighthawks’ victory was evident.
Excited after the win, cheer advisor and beloved Del Norte teacher Melva Musico voiced her support: “They are a powerhouse team and I hope to see that they can continue winning. And they are all wonderful gentlemen in school.”
As for how far the Nighthawks can go this season, Coach Cole only needed one word: “Championship.”