First Community Pep Rally Gets Southern’s Season Off to Positive Start

Sep 07, 2016

For the previous two years, Matt Kokia had played only a small part in the Southern Regional Golden Rams Marching Band’s halftime show. On Sept. 1, he was conducting it for the first time.

“I was worried, but everything went great,” said the junior, who after two years of playing baritone has taken over the drum major spot and led the band through a portion of its halftime show to kick off the first-ever Southern Football Community Pep Rally.

“It was so weird being on the stand and seeing the whole show from up there. But everything went as expected. We normally don’t start this early, but it was exhilarating to be out there tonight. We’re going to make improvements, and we can’t wait to give everybody a complete show soon.”

Under the guidance of new director Johnny Dondero, who stood in the middle aisle of the bleachers as a few raindrops fell, the Golden Rams performed the first two movements of Key Poulan’s “The Way Things Work.” The band will add the third movement during the coming weeks and should have it all ready by the homecoming game on Saturday, Sept. 24.

“It takes some time to get the whole show completely worked out,” Dondero said prior to his band’s performance. “We work on most of it throughout the summer and then put the final touches to it during the first few weeks of the season, once we get into school and everybody’s here.”

The Community Pep Rally, held at Ron Emmert Field, was attended by roughly 500 parents and fans and included introductions of the Southern American Youth Football and Cheer squads, as well as the Southern Regional Middle School football and cheer teams and each of the high school’s football and cheerleading crews.

Southern Regional High School cheerleading coach Lisa Merlo said her squad was geared up for both the upcoming football and cheer competition seasons.

“Our girls have been working hard all summer, and they definitely were excited to get out here tonight,” she said. “All our girls love the competition season, but they also love being part of the support system for our teams. They enjoy the sideline aspect as much as the competitions, and they’re always ready to perform.”

The event was organized by teacher John Kaszuba Sr., the school’s communications professional and the voice of Southern football during the season. He said afterward that it wasn’t a bad first try and what he hopes to become a new tradition.

“It didn’t go quite as well as I would have liked, but it went well,” he said. “We’ll tweak some things for next time, but it was nice to see a good number of people come out to support the athletes tonight.”

After all the other teams were brought out on the field, each of Southern’s varsity football team players was introduced individually. Following some comments by Athletic Director Chuck Donohue Jr., head football coach Chuck Donohue Sr. culminated the event with a promise to all in attendance that his program would represent the community well.

Afterward, Donohue Jr. was appreciative of the support from not only those within the community, but also the board of education and the rest of Southern’s administration.

“All our sports teams get great support from the community, and we travel well,” he said. “And tonight was a great start to the season for our band, our football team and cheer squad.”

Donohue Jr. also had high praise for Kaszuba, whom he dubbed “like a big brother to me.”

“It was a special event for everyone involved, and John Kaszuba did a fantastic job putting it all together. John’s a staple here, and he really cares about this school. He’s always done whatever he can to make things special for our athletes.”

— David Biggy

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