Martin S. Fuentes
Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 | 2:15 p.m.
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Humbled by the vitriol spawned from last week's podcast, Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer try their best to make this edition a happy one. They touch on all the teams that are still alive in the hunt for a state championship while specifically looking back at wins last week from Palo Verde and Canyon Springs.
An attempt to show school spirit during a high school football game last Friday by the Instigators, the student-led cheering club at Green Valley High School, is behind multiple members of the group this week being suspended from school.
Before Green Valley’s Sunrise Regional quarterfinal victory against visiting Foothill, the group of about 60 students tossed flour, talcum powder and glitter into the air while chanting the "I believe that we will win" song. The song, which originated by Utah State's students, has become a rallying cry before games for some student groups nationally.
Green Valley Principal Jeff Horn said the debris caused trouble for the nearby band — dirtying uniforms and getting into instruments — and made the fan experience unpleasant for other supporters because they also became caked with flour. It also created a safety concern as the bleachers became slippery.
It wasn’t the first time the cheering group pushed the envelope on game days. This time, Horn sent a message, suspending students. He declined to say how many students were suspended or the duration of their suspension.
Ty Burger, a Green Valley junior and one of the unofficial Instigator captains, said 18 students were suspended one day for campus disturbance.
Horn had previously spoken to students about keeping their cheering in good fun, but those warnings didn’t work. The suspension was the next step, he said, especially considering the group smuggled flour bags and water bottles filled with powder and flour into the game.
“The kids think we are squashing their enthusiasm, which isn’t true. We love the fact they are cheering,” Horn said. “They aren’t bad kids. But they need to learn some things aren’t appropriate.”
While Burger agrees some of the cheers in past games were insensitive, he’s not on board with the punishment. Instead of a suspension, he feels they should have been given detention after school or assigned community service. He says the flour incident wasn’t intentionally malicious but rather an attempt to get the team motivated for their first playoff game. The idea came from students at Basha High in Arizona, which played at Green Valley in late August.
“They did it at kickoff,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, we are going to try that.’ We did it as a statement to pump up Green Valley, not to harm anyone.”
Multiple schools in the Las Vegas area have student cheering groups. However, the Instigators are arguably the largest and most organized, frequently traveling to road games and bringing more students than the host school. They also cheer for soccer, volleyball and basketball, creating a true advantage.
Two years ago, when the Green Valley basketball team made a surprise run to the state tournament, Horn facilitated an effort to make it affordable for the Instigators to travel to Reno for the event. They have that much of an impact.
“I love having them support our athletic teams. It’s a great thing to have,” Horn said. “There is a time and place for everything, and when they cross that line, we need to address it as a school.”
That’s what makes the punishment so tough for the students, especially considering it will be on their school records. The suspended students will still be allowed to cheer Friday when Green Valley hosts Las Vegas in the Sunrise Regional semifinals — it’s a rematch from early this season when Green Valley won on a game-ending field goal, sending the InstiGators into a massive celebration where they stormed the field.
“This could look bad for college interviews,” Burger said. “I don’t know how I would explain that. I guess I would tell them I got suspended for having school spirit.”