Spotlight on tradition

Perry Meridian football team’s rich history has developed over the years into one of tradition and camaraderie.
“Since late 80’s, early 90’s we’d have this dinner the Thursday night before the Southport game.” Matthew Henninger, the head football coach at Perry, gave insight into the traditions and rituals of the school’s football team.
The team has many old customs, one of them being the Southport Steak Dinner held Thursday night the before rival game. Another is the pre-game rallying call. “We have a chant that we would say right before we took the field,” says Henninger, a tradition that he himself was apart of during his time as a football player for Perry back in 2000 as a sophomore before graduating in 2003.
When he returned to the team as a coach 3 years ago, he brought along a new tradition known as the Coaches’ Challenge. Held Thursdays before a game, the activity takes just a few minutes as two football coaches go head to head in an activity that Henninger decides.
“To be honest with you, it’s just whatever I can dream up,” says Henninger.
The coaches compete in shows of strength such as burn out, a game where the two competitors throw the ball back and forth as the speed and strength increases until one of them drops it, Henninger usually abstaining from the matches himself as he allows the other coaches to get in on the action while he observes from the sidelines.
“The kids get to see the coaches competing against each other, it’s kind of a good time.”
When game day finally arrives however, the guys continue They always do the same practice routine, the players completing a series of what they call Falcon Jacks, which is when they form a circle as they do jumping jacks and spell out “falcons,” their speed increasing as they go. Once they go around three times, the guys “yell ‘falcons’ three times and let out a huge yell, rush to the center of the circle and break it down,” says junior William Smith, defensive tight ends.
With the new stadium came new traditions, such as not stepping on the field until game time. The team also invites alumni down to attend the games when they are available.
According to psychology experts, superstitions are more common than one would think in sports. Perry’s team is no different. The team does not wear red on game days, and Sam Jones believes that if he does not have a fan in front of his face while he is in the athletic training room he will not play well.
One tradition all of Perry can get in on is Spirit Wear Fridays, getting the chance to support the team and add to the build up and the energy for the players as the game draws closer.
“It’s the crowd, it’s the school, it’s the spirit,” says Dekahri Jones, a senior on the team who plays running back and safety.