There is something special about returning to the site of some of your fondest childhood memories. The nostalgia of going back to your old high school can be truly magical. You can check out all your favorite spots in the building, see how things have changed since you left, and reminisce on days gone by.
In my case, my trip down memory lane was to my alma mater, Anderson High School, for Week 4 of the High School Fan Experience.
The current high school dates back to 1961, and it feels every bit as old today as it did when I graduated. However, the school is currently undergoing some significant renovations, including the addition of a new main entrance, an expanded science wing, and a new auxiliary gym by the football stadium. It is all a giant mess, but it still felt like home as soon as I laid my eyes on the brick façade.
Friday September 15th, the Anderson Redskins were to play host to a familiar foe, the Kings Knights. Anderson and Kings were on very different trajectories, Kings had fallen in their last two games, while Anderson was entering the night undefeated. Kings, though, had not lost to Anderson since both joined the Eastern Cincinnati Conference as charter members in 2012.
As was the case when I was younger, Anderson is not a school where tailgating is prevalent. Occasionally, gatherings would occur at the nearby Anderson Town Centre, but those mainly coincided with visits from local TV stations to cover the game. For my visit, there was no such gathering.
I will be honest beforehand, I was a little nervous when I instinctively scheduled this game for my series. I knew I would have preconceived notions considering my personal history at Anderson football games, but I also did not want to mail it in and just assume that I knew everything before going to the game. As it turns out, by keeping my mind open, I could see there was more than one way to experience an Anderson football game, something that I did not realize when I was still a student at Anderson.
The Anderson Redskins play their football games at Brown Stadium, which itself was dedicated in October of 1964, three years after the high school opened. Unlike most football stadiums, Brown Stadium is built into a hillside, and therefore is not visible from the street except for the main entrance and press box.
The bleachers run along only the west side of the stadium, and are not as tall relative to Miamisburg, Kings, or Centerville. The bleachers extend the full length of the field from endzone to endzone, and allow for a large area of standing room above the top row of seats. There is also an addition above the student section to allow for extra seating for big games. Overall, Brown Stadium can hold approximately 6,000 people.
As I mentioned before, the only part of the stadium visible from street level is the main entrance and press box. Housed underneath the press box is the concession stand. There have always been traditional concession items, such as grilled burgers and hot dogs, as well as freshly popped popcorn, peanuts, drinks, and candy. While Larosas Pizza has always been a staple of Brown Stadium, their boneless chicken wings are a new feature, a choice I did not have my days as a student. How can you go wrong with those options?
Unique to Brown Stadium is that the marching band actually sits directly next to the students in a special seating addition instead of in an endzone. There are temporary bleachers set up behind each endzone, but rather than host a marching band in those seats, the extra seating is open to elementary school children and alumni. What a way to get the kids involved at the local game!
What I expected to see from the fans at Brown Stadium is not what I actually saw. I was expecting to see fresh faces, new teachers, and an unrecognizable group of parent volunteers manning the concessions and souvenir stands. In reality, so many of the faces I saw I recognized almost immediately, even if I could not remember the name that went with the face.
At the concession stand, I recognized nearly every smiling face behind the counter handing out the freshly popped popcorn. I know that I had seen all the souvenir salespeople at games when I was a student at Anderson. On top of that, a good number of fans that were there were either former teachers, parents of former students, or alumni. It certainly was welcoming to see so many familiar faces, and reminded me of how ingrained into the fabric of Anderson Township Anderson Redskin football really is.
Following the opening kickoff, it was clear that the fans were not holding anything back. Both the Anderson and Kings fans were loud from the start, and the energy never dissipated, even when victory was in hand for Anderson towards the end. Although there was the occasional cowbell ringing out, it was clear that brute force and sheer willpower was going to be what drove the sound from the bleachers. Perhaps most amazing of all was that the loudest fans might have been the parents in the last row of the standing room only crowd, all of whom were standing closer to the concession stand than the football field.
It was a good crowd that night. It was large and loud, and both sides of fans showed a lot of passion for their teams. The family friendly environment was nurturing to the large number of elementary and middle school children that were roaming free at times during the stadium. At no point did the fans become unruly, even with a poor performance by the officiating crew. What more can you ask for from a crowd at a high school football game?
I had high expectations for the Anderson student section going into the game for two reasons. First, I had just seen the most fanatical student section I had ever seen the week prior at Centerville High School. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I was looking forward to seeing the similarities and differences of the Anderson students from now and when I was a student.
I was not disappointed.
Certain things will seemingly never change, such as the specific cheers from the cheerleaders and the demand for space in the crowded student section. As was the case when I would roam the bleachers, the student section was filled to capacity before the game had even kicked off. To my disbelief, the first few rows of bleachers were filled before I even arrived at the stadium, and I was there two hours before kickoff. However, I was not at all surprised to hear the tomahawk chop chant from the students after every touchdown bellow below me as I stood in the press box.
Still, all good things must evolve to keep up with the times, and the student section at Anderson is no different. For example, imagine my shock standing in the middle of a cloud of orange smoke after the first Anderson touchdown was scored that night. I was not expecting such a celebration, but it was exciting to see.
Perhaps the reminder from years past that struck me the most was the difference in what the night was about between the grades. Seniors still had priority seating in the front, followed by the Juniors, Sophomores, and then Freshmen. Roars for scoring plays were as loud as I remembered them, as was the excitement for the band when they would play. What struck me that night was how much of a social event the game was for the underclassmen. During my time at Anderson, I had always noticed some students were often disinterested in the game when the action lacked intensity, but I had never put much thought into why that might be. It was after getting a birds eye view of the bleachers that I remembered just what was going on. Friends were talking, laughing, and enjoying their time together on a Friday night. The merriment just happened to be occurring during a big football game, which only seemed to add to the excitement. There is a huge plaza north of the bleachers at field level, which was always packed with students having a jolly old time, whether the game was exciting, or not. At the end of the day, isn’t enjoying yourself what going to a high school football game is all about?
The Pride of AHS, the Anderson High School Marching Band, has not missed a beat over the years. Under the continued direction of Toby Biedermann, the sound generated by the band that night was as strong as ever. Situated in their usual spot right beside the student section, the band would often interact directly with the students on the other side of the aisle.
While all student sections will cheer and chant as the teams get set for a kickoff, Anderson is the first high school I have encountered this year where the drumline, and even the whole band in some cases, add to the anticipation. Sometimes we were met with a simple drum cadence, but from time to time, the band would strike up a tune to encourage the students to cheer louder while the team lined up for the kick. Such an act is commonplace at college games, but is not as prevalent at the high school level.
A unique and beloved tradition for the Anderson Marching Band is for the band to perform one of the songs from their halftime set during the fourth quarter. The band will proceed to play without interruption, not stopping just because a play is going on. In the case of the Kings game, the band played right through all of “Gold on the Ceiling” as the fourth quarter rolled along, concluding after nearly a minute and a half of game time had passed.
I find it comforting knowing that even though the band members change and the band boosters come and go, the magical sound of the Anderson Marching Band has been maintained. Just like in football, it takes an entire group to achieve your goal, which in the band’s case, is entertaining the crowd. Fortunately for Anderson Redskin fans, I don’t see the band losing its luster anytime soon.
From the opening kickoff, the energy level was through the roof at Brown Stadium. Kings fans had traveled extremely well, even bringing their marching band along for the ride. For the first time in my series, both the home and visiting stands were completely sold out, with some fans standing six rows deep at the top of the bleachers just trying to get sight of the field. With so much on the line for both schools, including possible Division II Playoff implications, every fan knew how important the game was.
Kings had the early advantage, showing their strength with a dominant running game that was as fun to watch this week as it was the first time I saw the Knights in Week Two. Eventually, Anderson found an answer to the Knights running game, showcasing a balanced offensive attack. With both defenses standing tall in the first half, the teams went to the locker rooms for halftime with Anderson on top by a score of 14-7.
The second half got off to a frenetic start, with Anderson and Kings trading touchdowns seemingly at will. After seeing only 21 total points total in the first half, we were treated to 28 points in the third quarter alone. In the end, Anderson was victorious over Kings, 42-28.
I could not have been happier with my visit to Anderson High School. Sure, the school was my home for four years growing up, but that does not change the fact that, from an objective standpoint, the atmosphere at the game was extraordinary. Being a part of a sellout crowd was enthralling, as was being able to rejoin the student section I once called my own one more time, even if it was just for five minutes.
On a personal level, to all alumni, if you get the chance to go back for a Redskins football game, even if it is just one, do it. The atmosphere is just as you remember it. Not only that, but the team is seeing similar success compared to what they were known for when we were there. It’s a team that is fun to watch at a stadium that still feels like home. If you don’t believe me, see so for yourself!