By Bill Tamburrino
Everybody knows how hard the players and coaches work to prepare for a varsity football game.Games are played on Friday nights in the fall but they are won in the weight room in the winter, spring and summer.
Some schools in the San Diego CIF Section and other areas around the country still play on Friday afternoons. There are several reasons for the afternoon games. I won’t go into those reasons in this column in order to be politically correct. I did work at a school before I came to Ramona that had to quit playing night games due to gang activities in the neighborhood. The day games almost killed the entire athletic department. Football pays the bills.
The Friday Night Lights shine brightly in Ramona. Bulldog football is more of a happening than an athletic event. The entire community comes out and supports the football team and therefore the rest of the athletic department and other extracurricular programs.
“This community is ‘All in!’" said Coach Damon Baldwin, using one of his favorite motivational phrases. "Since I have been here I have never seen the community support that we get at any of the schools on our schedule. That is the main reason that I applied for and wanted the job of coaching football at Ramona. The community’s reputation for its support is known far and wide.
“No one person can put on a first class football game on a Friday night. Since I have been here several people have taken charge and done the job of coordinating all of the elements that it takes to turn on the Friday Night Lights.
“This year Nancy Sapper, our Booster's Club president, is the one pulling the strings.”
Sapper wanted to make one point clear: “We are not a football boosters club. We support all of the extracurricular and some curricular activities at Ramona High School. We are the Ramona High School Bulldogs Booster’s Club and we get volunteers from most of the other sports and activities to help us at football games. We also work at volleyball games, wrestling, basketball games and other events but football is the most visible and brings in the most money for all of the sports and activities.”
The Booster’s Club mans the snack bar at the games and is in charge of the football programs that are sold. Every game has a completely new program with updated stats, new pictures and is one of the best in the county.
“Lorri Rieve and Laura Vigneau have taken on the task of producing the program. Doug Sooley and Alan Rhoads roam the sidelines at home and away games, taking great action shots of all of the action on and off of the field. Lisa Burger has stepped up and is in charge of the snack bar. She shops, buys and coordinates the menu. She has completely remodeled the interior on her own to make things easier on game days. Karen Vaughn is our treasurer and sells the tickets for the snack bar. She is one of the superstars of our executive board. Joan Snelling lives in the ticket booth and sells season tickets. The board of the PTSA sells tickets on game days and they have two gates to man; one for those who buy tickets on game day and one for those with season tickets and passes.
“I don’t have to micro manage. I have complete trust in everybody. If I am not there, all of the jobs get done,” stated Sapper.
Besides the boosters, other individuals and groups have big jobs on Friday nights. Antoinette Rodriguez and Bob Verhoest are in charge of security and field access.
“We also wash bottles and clean the bathrooms,” joked Verhoest who is also the game host. His duties as game host are many. He greets the visiting teams and takes them to the locker rooms, makes sure that the visiting coaches and film crew are taken care of, supplies the announcer and time keeper with water and programs, and, as he said, cleans up after the game is over.
Ramona has one of the county’s best video crews and video programs for its players and coaches. It is the brainchild of Rheynard Morgan who has spent many years in the “Black Hole.”
“I call the coaches office the Black Hole because every time you enter it, years disappear from your life,” joked Morgan. This year Brian Calkins and Mikey Schuler are the sideline and end zone photographers. Every play that the Bulldogs run is filmed at two different views.
Football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport. And there are injuries in collision sports. Ramona has a great sports medicine team. Doctors Gordon Luan and Scott Flinn from Arch Healthcare are on hand at all home and away games. Steve Pettis is the athletic trainer for the Dawgs. Ramona has a sports medicine class and students in the class volunteer time at the games to help Trainer Steve.
Leighanne Kerchner is the team mom but she is more like the matriarch of Ramona football.
“I get a lot of help,” she said. “We have team meals for all three teams the day before game day. We carbo load for those meals. We make sure that the athletes eat the correct food and drink the proper drinks. Every parent in the program chips in in one way or the other. One week the culinary arts at RHS cooked the team meal for us. They did a great job.
“Parents sign up to host the meals. Parents sign up to provide food and drinks. This year the Seidls have provided tables and chairs for the meals. For road games we give every player a sack lunch for a pre-game snack. Jessica Zanie coordinates the frosh and Melissa Schmidt does so for the junior varsity.
“Every time we have needed something or asked for something the parents have stepped up. Our athletes are never lacking.” Leighanne Kerchner also coordinates the PTSA board ticket sales.
Lieutenant Commander Mike Ernst and Chief Petty Officer Bob Richardson and the RHS NJROTC cadets are in charge setting up the spirit tunnel for varsity home games and they provide the chain gang for the frosh games. The NJROTC also provides the Color Guard to present the colors for the National Anthem. Tess Beatty or the RHS Chamber Choir sing the National Anthem at home games.
A high school football game would not be a high school football game without the presence of a marching band and pageantry team, and Ramona High School has an award-winning band and pageantry team. Daniel James has brought the Royal Alliance to an elite status. The band does pre-game shows and halftime entertainment. The band is a finalist for the KUSI-TV’s Prep Pigskin Report band of the year competition. The band was recently featured on PPR and received a $500 check for its performance.
Ramona High’s Cheer and Song teams are also nationally acclaimed. Melissa Brunner is the cheer adviser for Coaches Dakota Sanders, Kyla Brunner and Heather Howard. Tracy Stewart and Hillary Stewart guide the Song team. Both teams provide entertainment at halftimes.
Jack Roloff has been in charge of providing a chain gang for varsity football games since 1987. Gary Besaw has announced all three levels of Bulldog football and is the voice Ramona Pop Warner. He also spots for the games that he is not calling. Chuck Schoepp mans the clock for football as well as for basketball. Besaw and Schoepp have their hands full keeping the announcer on his toes. This reporter has been announcing RHS athletic contests since 1975.
Baldwin and Morgan recruit and supervise the Bulldog Angels — the best hydration crew in the CIF. Baldwin also had high praise for his manager, Jared Dunn, and his practice controller, Emma Lisowski. Emma’s dad, Matt Lisowski, monitors and records all of the plays called during the varsity games, and gets the stats to MaxPreps which has ranked Ramona as high as 25th in the state this year.
It takes a big team to turn on the Friday Night Lights but those lights would be a waste of electricity if the community of Ramona didn’t show up and watch the action under the lights. This community shows up at home and on the road. Most of the time Ramona has more fans in attendance at away games than the home team. The Dawg Pound is the Ramona Bulldog football team’s address but every gridiron in America is its home.