It's a cold Thursday night. The parking lot of Northview High School is packed with cars and people. Many people congregate in the cafeteria of the school. The Knights may have scored a huge triumph Saturday night, but as the crowd files in, one thing becomes apparent: Tonight is about the fans.
Countless fans packed the front lobby at last night's pep rally a half-hour before the event started. Some of them bought merchandise, some of them painted their faces, and some of them chatted up members of the team. They were a diverse group, to say the least: Elderly couples sporting Northview T-shirts stood alongside high school students.
A group of men, painted in black and silver and wearing ridiculous hats, absorbed the laughter they received as they stood by the entry to the gym. Their shirts, labled with black marker, all read "Sons of Mitches". They, like everyone else in the school, were there to support their team: The Northview Knights.
"We're the bleacher bums," Mark Hoover, one of the group, said. "They wore shirts that said this, so tonight we're them."
Merchandise of all sorts was available. Brittnee Yocom said that she'd sold over 50 Knights buttons in the last half hour.
"It's been crazy," she said.
By 7:30, the fans had packed the gym. The cheerleaders shouted and the band played as they waited for the show to start, and what a spectacular start it was. As the announcer spoke, several mothers of the Knights burst through a paper banner, all dressed in the same maroon attire. They each attempted a free-throw shot and took a seat, much to the amusement of the crowd.
Then it started. Head Coach Mitch Lancaster took the mic as the crowd roared. They were rapt, hanging off of his every word.
"I'd like to thank you all for being here tonight," he said. "I've had players comment that it's a home game no matter where we go, and it's true. We have you all to thank."
He continued, talking about the challenges the team has faced and will face. When it comes to the regionals, he said, the Knights are ready.
"I don't think a regional game is any harder than a sectional game," he said. "We're gonna be prepared for New Albany come Saturday."
After some more words, Assistant Coach Scott Buell took the floor. The crowd welcomed him just as warmly as Lancaster.
"I wasn't fortunate enough to win a sectional when I was playing ball," he said. "But, I couldn't find a more deserving team or group of coaches than the ones standing in front of you.
"We've made memories, sure. But the memories we make next Saturday will outweigh the ones we made last Saturday."
Next up was Knights athlete Logan Whitman, the first of many members of the team to take the floor. Obviously nervous, he started his brief speech with a joke.
"I think we look a lot better warming up than they do," he said, referring to the group of mothers sitting beside him. "But seriously, we appreciate everything you guys do. You're there for us on the road, you're there for us at home. Thank you."
Of course, the night was not without its humor. The "Bleacher Bums" did a... stunning number to the music of the band and the laughter of the crowd. Will Frampton and John Crooks, two members of the team, did a humorous parody of the television show "In The Paint." The skit even featured a bulldog, compliments of Scott McDonald.
Gina Crooks, a Northview teacher and adamant Knights fan, was happy with the outcome of the rally.
"I'm proud of all Northview athletes, past, present, and future," she said.
Ruthann Medworth, selling beads at the front door, echoed the sentiment.
"Anything to add to the excitement," she said. "It's really been great."