Let’s take a trip back through time to March of 2009. I was absolutely thrilled to be attending my first ever sporting event for Wakefield High School, not for myself as I was only in fifth grade, but to support my hometown team. I remember the days leading up to the game. There was a buzz of anticipation all over Wakefield as the team prepared to play in the State Tournament against Arlington Catholic. As an avid hockey player and fan I couldn’t wait to go and watch the team play. Little did I know that this would actually be a paradigm shifting event in my life.
As I walked through the doors to the Chelmsford Forum, I found myself awestruck by the masses of people there to watch the game. I thought for sure that half the town of Wakefield must have been there. And then, I saw something that impressed me even more. Amongst a large number of scattered pockets of Wakefield families, teachers, and other members of the town, was a massive patch of red spanning across about four sections of the bleachers. As I walked towards the patch, I became quickly aware that this was the student section. To say that I, a little fifth grader, was intimidated by the idea of sitting with all the big high schoolers would be an understatement. However, they welcomed me and a few friends with open arms to sit in the back. The view was average at best, but the experience was priceless.
Over the course of the game, which Wakefield would go on to lose 3-2 in a shootout, there was a multitude of different chants, songs, and other “events” if you will, emanating from our proud little section of Warrior diehards. Most notably were the “I believe” chant and “the roller coaster.” What amazed me most was the fearlessness of the people who lead the fan section. I didn’t know who they were, and I doubted seriously that they knew who half of the hundreds of us were, but they had this unwavering spirit about them to keep yelling chants at us and for whatever reason, that spirit moved us to yell right back. Hundreds of strangers, brought together by something that seemed so meaningless at the time. However, from that night on, I knew that I wanted to be like those kids when I got older. I wanted to lead what I learned that night was called, “The Red Sea.”
Fast forward a couple of years to 2011, I was attending all of the football and hockey games regularly. They were exciting and seemed to be the best attended by the high school students. Whenever I went, I found myself amazed by the massive number of fans that sat cheering on their boys in Red and White. I sort of found myself studying the crowd in a sense, learning all the chants and other things that the crowd brought to the table still knowing that someday that would be me. Late in that year, the hockey team was working on an incredible playoff run, and I found myself at practically every game, each drawing a larger crowd than the last. By the time the boys made it to the Garden, the Red Sea had altered the National Anthem to end with, “And the home of the Warriors,” sent a wild crowd surfer up and down the student section, and created a massive easy button poster for the players to punch after each goal they scored. At this point I couldn’t imagine things getting any better. Unfortunately it didn’t as the boys lost the Final game of the stated Championship in the TD Garden to Marshfield coming up just a goal short in a hard fought contest. However, this game left me with an important lesson. Before leaving, the Red Sea fervently began chanting, “We still love you,” over and over echoing even louder than Marshfield’s section cheering for their State Champion hockey team. I realized that the Red Sea was their to support its teams no matter what the end result was. This was something that always stuck with me.
Jumping forward two more years, I was finally in high school, primed and ready to officially join the ranks of the notorious Red Sea, this year headed by Dick Mac, and Mike Amenotola. They were two of the loudest kids I had ever been in the company of and I’ve never meant loud to be a complement more than now. I distinctly remember at one of the first football games of the year, I sat towards the back as was customary of the freshmen. I chanted loudly as my observation of the Red Sea Masters of old had taught me never to be self-conscious. At some point close to half time, Mike climbed up through the bleachers and began yelling at the freshmen section and said, “[…]You need to be loud. You’re here to make a fool of yourselves[…]” Unfortunately as is also customary of freshmen, many of the back rows had been awkward and quiet during the game. Then Mike pointed to me and told me to keep being loud and try to get everyone else in my area to do the same. Wow. Just wow. That was all that was on my mind, Mike Amentola had just commended me for my school spirit. At the time, that was like Jesus telling you to keep up the good work as a disciple of God. I was a proud fan that game and for many more basketball, and unfortunately hockey since I didn’t make the team as a freshman, games the rest of the year.
The following year was an ok, but slightly less inspiring, year for the Red Sea. Many teams were thriving and the crowds were good, but not what they had been. The Red Sea seemed to lack a defined leader and organization as a result. Although I, and many other students, were underwhelmed by the Red Sea that year, we continued our support of our teams, or at least the ones who were winning. The hockey team struggled that year and as a result saw small numbers at its games which seemed to help derail some of the momentum for the team. It was no wash out as the football and basketball teams saw support and, in an unheard of turn of events, the girls basketball team received a crowd for their first tournament game in many years. All of this was great, but I had no idea what effect it would have in the spring.
Many of the, “leaders” of the Red Sea that year were lacrosse players who were friendly and largely popular throughout the school. With two home playoff games, the lacrosse team saw very solid crowds for the first time. I realized something about the importance of supporting everyone at the high school at that point; The support you give others doesn’t go unnoticed and will be repaid. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was to have such a stellar turnout for our games, many of whom we had been cheering for short months ago.
The following year was somewhat of a bounce back year for the Red Sea. Under the leadership of Alex Flynn dressed head to toe in red and white zebra-esque pants, a throwback wakefield sweater, and an epic towering headdress. Flynny took the reigns during the football games. The crowds still seemed smaller, but the energy levels were high. That year Flynny was able to motivate the Red Sea to attend its first soccer game. Another successful pair of basketball seasons from the boys and girls helped the red sea thrive in spite of another sub-par hockey season. Finally, one day Flynny was unable to make it to an important league game for the boys due to a prior commitment. It was my turn to try my hand at the whole Red Sea thing at long last. The team struggled that game, but I was able to help maintain relatively high spirits for much of the game, however this was not without help of several other seniors. Another first came for the Red Sea when it persuaded Mr. O’Leary to acquire 2 fan buses to ship Wakefield’s famous fan section up to Newburyport for the girls’ basketball tournament game. In spite of a pretty tough loss, the Red Sea made sure to have a great time pulling for its team to the very end.
Flynny was our goalie for lacrosse, and we were once again rewarded for his leadership in the spring with two even larger crowds for two more home tournament games at Landrigan. Yet another first, the Red Sea elected to tailgate for our games giving each of the players a warm reception as we arrived at the field. I was beginning to see more and more the kind of community you could create at the high school when everyone supported everyone. When the lacrosse guys supported the football, basketball, and soccer teams, they gave it right back in the spring. I began to think about what could happen if we increased the Red Sea’s reach even further. That became a goal of mine for the following year when at last I would have my chance to follow in the footsteps of so many warriors before me. Increase the presence of students at events for each other and see what happens.
Now we fast forward just a touch more to September 11, 2015. Excitement for the first football game of the 2015 season swelled throughout the school. It was sure to be an intense match up for the boys as they would go out to face the ranked Beverly High Panthers. For me there was a different emotion… Nervousness. I wasn’t sure what to expect and questions popped into my head. How many people would show up? Would anyone listen to me if I tried to start chants? Was all the hype I had built up for the past eight years leading up to this going to be nothing but a let down? In retrospect it seems silly to be worried over something like this but just trust me, in the moment it makes a whole lot of sense. I picked up a headdress and red face paint at party city for more money than I would care to admit. I got dressed head to toe in red then went to pick up my counter part for the football season Dylan Melanson. The football team struggled with the powerful Beverly squad, but the Red Sea raged on proud under the leadership of Dylan and myself. We used many of the classic chants and the roller coaster which I elected to make my baby of sorts this year, it’s one of my favorite things to do at games. The fan section killed it at the first game and I couldn’t wait to continue that moving forward. The following week, we saw a bunch of middle schoolers wearing headdresses, and morph suits, and all other kinds of red and white Wakefield apparel asking to join the student section. What an incredible full circle feeling that was. Of course I said yes sending them to the back knowing that like my predecessors, I was helping to inspire the future leaders of the Red Sea. This was the kind of experience that made it feel like this was something bigger than just my selfish desire to lead the Red Sea. One of the more notable games we had in the fall was the Winchester game which included waffles being tossed into the stands and storming the field after a fantastic victory. This was also the first night of filming for a project that I was inspired to produce by Jackie Carrier’s “Red Sea Rough Cut” which had been made in 2012 as a tribute to the great Red Sea. My right hand men for the project were Wakefield’s favorite Meteorologist Matt Hoenig, and Alex Guerriero. The two did a fantastic job and the link is included at the bottom of the article if you’d like to see the end product. The soccer team received a lot of love at all of their games this year with a pretty solid showing from the Red Sea, and both the girls and boys saw massive turnouts for their tournament games this year. Personally, I made an effort to attend as much as possible. I went to field hockey, soccer, and football games, as well as a band competition. Unfortunately I was unable to attend a swim meet or cross country race. As the winter season rolled around, I struggled with a busy hockey schedule. Fortunately, many other seniors like Adam Chanley took over for me at Basketball games until I was able to attend more games. At that point I left the leadership to the established at that point and continued to contribute the roller coaster and a few occasional chants. While the hockey team struggled again this year, constant support of the football, soccer, and basketball teams, from the hockey players was rewarded. We saw incredible support which really helped us through an improved but still hard season. There were some occasions where the extra push and adrenaline from the crowd helped us elevate our game and fight for some epic victories and a couple of ties. Once the Tournament rolled around for the basketball teams, crowds swelled rivaling the numbers of the Red Sea of old and what a magnificent experience that was.
I was elected most school spirit by the senior class this year, taking my place in history with the other great heads of the Red Sea. However, the Red Sea is only as strong as the entire student body wishes it to be. One person isn’t enough. The culture that is being fostered with constant support for our athletic, theater, music, art, and tv departments among many others is incredible. It’s something special that can’t be described well with words and really has to be experienced. In life, the experiences like the ones that so many students have been able to share by supporting each other this year at WMHS, are the ones that last a lifetime. In the words of Mr. O’Leary, many days have been, “Great days to be a Warrior.” I am so immensely proud of how strong the culture at the High School has become recently and even more so to have been a part of it this year. I hope that, and truly believe that, the path that the High School has been set on is going to continue to grow pushing for greater and greater crowds, more and more support, and a stronger and stronger culture. And by the way, if you know anyone interested in buying a headdress for forty dollars (preferably for use at high school games next year) have them give me a call.