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Smithsburg students rally in support of team

March 07, 2002|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

Clad in purple and yellow, the Loonies unleash their lungs during girls basketball games.

About 15 to 20 Smithsburg High School boys belong to the Leopard Loonies. They wear the school colors and they scream through megaphones for their school team.

"We wake up with sore throats," said junior Corey Brown.

Their allegiance is to the Leopards, who play Mardela in the Class 1A state semifinals Friday at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

"We love it ...," said Athletic Director Teresa Bachtell, who coaches the girls basketball team. "Sometimes, in some games, they've been a real factor. The girls look over and see them going bonkers."

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That's what it takes to be in the Leopard Loonies. "You just have to be wild and crazy," said junior David McDougal.

The group formed in time for Smithsburg's playoff game against Williamsport last month.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity to let loose.

"Soccer is too cold," said junior Jeff Mills. "Volleyball is too quick. Basketball is just right."

They freely admit to being bandwagon fans, rooting aggressively for the girls team because it's more successful than the boys team.

Although the Loonies sit high in the bleachers, away from their parents, they make themselves heard.

"The cheerleaders want us close to them," Mills said.

"They want to be close to us," Brown corrected him.

As new as the group is, it's already working on some traditions.

The chant with three minutes left in the game is: "This one's over!"

Then, at two minutes: "Warm up the bus!"

Finally, with 30 seconds left, they break into the "na na na na..." refrain from Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)."

McDougal does backflips and breakdances at intermissions.

The Loonies have tricked opponents into a taking a quick shot by pretending the game clock is about to run down and falsely counting down the seconds.

"Sometimes, it backfires," and an opponent's hurried shot goes in, McDougal said.

The Loonies said they occasionally are warned about their behavior. Senior Patrick Wivell said he was told to move back when he yelled close to an opposing coach.

"They're young boys and they get caught up in what they're doing," Bachtell said.

The Loonies will douse themselves in extra body paint for Friday's game. Freshman Matt Feiser said he'll wear his leopard print boxer shorts over his clothes instead of under them.

They plan to grill hotdogs at a pre-game tailgate party.

The Loonies won't be the only Smithsburg fanatics at the game.

Math teacher Chris Rattay and his wife, Shauna, haven't missed a girls basketball game since they moved from Uniontown, Pa., last year so he could take a job at Smithsburg High School.

Rattay said his 4-month-old daughter, Mya, has become an unofficial mascot for the varsity team.

Rattay, who coaches the freshman girls team, said he gives extra credit to students who attend girls basketball games. A few more seem interested since the playoffs began and have asked for directions to Friday's game, he said.

The girls basketball team is trying to bring home the school's fourth state championship this year. The girls volleyball, soccer and cross country teams all won titles in the fall.

Prinicipal Jeffrey Stouffer figured the odds of that to be 1 in 85,184, based on 44 teams competing in each of the three sports.

There may be pressure to capture a fourth title, but Stouffer said the basketball team is still a success if it doesn't.

"We'll be pleased with them to do as well as they can," he said.

"We're very proud to have gotten this far," Bachtell said.

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