- October 7, 2021
It’s back. It’s finally back.
After what feels like an eternity of wandering through the desert, high-school sports are here to quench your thirst for high-level athletics.
As I type this column out, athletes from across six different sports (bowling, cross country, football, golf, swimming and diving, and girls volleyball) are back in their natural habitats — working on getting game ready. And don’t forget the cheer teams, who are out practicing stunts and cheers for Friday nights.
For sports fans like myself, your humble narrator, this is one of the best times of the year, and it’s why I’m bringing you my top three things that I’m looking forward to in this new year of high-school athletics.
This one is a twofer deal, because both are as interconnected as Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Without passion there is no pageantry, and let’s face it, pageantry is just as important as the game or match that’s taking place in front of us.
The driving sounds of the marching bands playing their fight songs, and the elevating screams of joy — or pain — that funnel down to the court/field from an enraptured audience all makes for an atmosphere that you can’t get while sitting at home.
As a band nerd myself, watching the halftime shows is worth the price of admission alone, and for some players the band is a real highlight. When I was talking with Ocoee High running back Dexter Rentz Jr., I asked him the question of, “What will you miss when you graduate?” His answer: the Ocoee marching band.
One of the first games I covered when I took over as the sports editor last October was an Ocoee football game, and the first impression I had was, “Dang, they sound like a collegiate band.” Once I started making the rounds of local schools, I got to hear the bands at other schools in our coverage area like West Orange High and Foundation Academy and was blown away.
As many who have followed my writing know, before I arrived here in West Orange, I was the associate editor at the Winter Park/Maitland Observer.
Now, there’s a lot of differences on that side of town compared to here, but there has been one thing that truly stands out to me: the sports community of West Orange is on another level.
The good folks of Winter Garden, Ocoee and Oakland love their schools with a fanaticism that clearly shows. School logos are plastered across the walls of local businesses, cars fly the colors of schools, and just about anywhere you go you’ll hear people chatting about the upcoming game.
Communities are built on a shared identity, so it makes sense that the local school would become a place of community pride for people. And while I myself am not from the area, simply covering schools makes me feel like I’m a part of the community.
For instance, when I’m stalking around the sidelines at West Orange High or Legacy I’ll run around and shake hands and chat with folks, as if I’ve always been here. Honestly, it’s the community aspect — the chats on the sidelines and in the stands — that I’m looking forward to the most, and I know I’m not alone in that.
If there’s one thing that defines the upcoming high-school sports season, it’s the yearly renewal of rivalries.
At the high-school level the student-athletes face off against best friends they grew up with — and bragging rights are no the line. Who doesn’t want to be able to dangle a win over a friend?
And the area has rivalries aplenty, with the biggest of which being the newest of the bunch. When Windermere High arrived on the scene and cut into West Orange High’s territory back in 2017, a rivalry was immediately born.
Players who once donned the orange and blue, now wear the lime green and blue at Windermere, and that upset folks in the West Orange community. It’s unfortunate that Windermere won’t be facing off against the Warriors this football season, but the rivalry in volleyball will be just as big, as former WOHS volleyball coach Roberto Santasofia left abruptly and went to Windermere to continue coaching.
While the “Backyard Bowl” between Olympia and West Orange has already been decided, rivalries will continue to unfold in various fields of play, and you can be sure that sweat will be poured in the name of bragging rights.