By Tim Chambers
Football players love the Friday night lights and seeing the stands packed with fans. What they often fail to see is another group of athletes cheering them on to victory.
The Longhorn cheerleaders do a wonderful job of getting our fans fired up before and during the games. They don’t get credit for any touchdowns scored, passes caught or tackles made, but the contributions that they make on Friday are not to go unnoticed.
The 2017 Longhorns’ squad received a very high honor that took place over the weekend. They were selected to cheer at Central Florida University during Saturday’s football game with Memphis which was televised on ESPN 2.
Coach Cassie Southerland touched on how they were selected to participate. It’s a great reward for a group of girls that missed out on a big opportunity last year.
“We have a summer camp with the Universal Cheer Association every year and they notified us that we had been selected to participate,” said Southerland. “This is a great honor for our kids that all of them are looking forward to. We’ve been practicing four days a week to try and get ready. It’s something special that they’ll never forget and a great reward for all their hard work.”
The squad was also selected to cheer at the Tennessee and Georgian game this week but had already committed to Central Florida. The trip is special after missing out last year.
“We were supposed to cheer in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade but didn’t get to go for lack of funding,” added Southerland. “It means so much to each of them to cheer on a national stage this Saturday. We want to represent Johnson County High School well. We’re proud of our school and our community.”
Cheerleading can be a very demanding sport. The high school squad practices at least three days per week and six hours minimum.
“We want to be on top of our game just like the ball teams do,” added Southerland. “We want our girls to be the loudest, the sharpest and the happiest of any cheerleaders that we compete against. We want them to have scholarship opportunities, and we want our girls to pick the team up when the players and fans are down. The boys play so much better when the fans are out of their seats and cheering them on.”
Senior Caleigh Blair is the team captain and Jada Gentry, a junior, is the co-captain. Team members include Makayla Bilodeau, Mindy Rozier, Summer Moretz, Kayleigh Arnold, Jada Gentry, Sydney Osborne, Savannah Bumgardner, Natalyi Taylor, Danielle Robinson, Charly Martin, Callie Capps, DeAnna Greer, Kayla Harding, Marisela Mejia, Megan Pardue, Chloe Arnold, Izzy Furchess and Lauryn Johnson.
Southerland is assisted by Michelle Walters.
“Michelle is a great person to work with,” added Southerland. “I couldn’t ask for anyone better. We’ve got some great girls to work with.”
The junior high cheerleading squad has 13 girls according to their coach Jessica Muncey.
“We were lucky to have a cheerleading camp this summer which is something we don’t usually get to do,” said Muncey. “We are proud of our squad because they all work well together. We’re now able to stunt and we’ll do a full dance during basketball season. They are doing very well and they work extra hard.”
Bella Phipps is the captain of the squad and Hannah Walker is the co-captain. Muncy said her squad has added a new dimension.
“We’ve added Andrew Reece and Eric Rodriguez as our stunt men,” said Muncy. “They yell out all the cheers and they hold up the girls. They are a big asset to our team.”
Muncey is assisted by Lizzy Icenhour.
NOTE: The team filled in nicely cheering at the high school varsity game on Friday. They were filling in for the varsity who was cheering at the Central Florida University and Memphis football game.
Team members include Chloe Hopkins, Ashlee Anderson, Jessica Anderson, Milee Treadway, Aleena Summerow, Audrey Godines, Abigal Roark, Kaylee Anderson, Emily Shupe, Autumn Shepherd, McKenzie Poe, Andrew Reece and Eric Rodrigeuz.