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MACARTHUR NOTEBOOK/Semifinals

Fans draw praise

There were a good many positive things about MacArthur's 35-14 victory but the thing that most amazed the Mac coaching staff was the size of the crowd that made the long drive to support the Highlanders.

By all accounts, Mac had as many, or more fans, in attendance than the hometown Cardinals.

"I walked out of the locker room and our big inflatable was there at the door, so I couldn't see at first," Mac coach Brett Manning said. "But when I walked around the end of the inflatable and saw the crowd I was stunned. That entire visitor side was packed with Mac fans. The band was there, Highlanderettes, cheerleaders, Pride Line; it was just an amazing sight.

"It was something to drive 3 1/2 hours and have a larger crowd than the home team. It really made our players excited and they really went out there and totally dominated the game. The crowd was loud and they stood the entire game. We have a friend of ours  Jason Romero  who takes this portable PA system and he plays several songs at certain times in the games and he keeps the fans pumped. It just really makes for a great atmosphere."

Manning hopes that even more fans will show up for Friday's Class 5A semifinal game against McAlester at Choctaw's Bill Jensen Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and Mac fans will be sitting on the west, or press box, side of the stadium as the home team.

Plus the weather forecast of daytime temperatures reaching the 70s should boost that even more.

The entire student body started getting fired up for the game with an all-school pep rally yesterday at 2 p.m. The standing-room-only crowd welcomed the Mac players into the auditorium to the Mac Fight Song courtesy of the Highlander Band, then the students saw a couple of videos and heard from Manning and captains Will Collins and Connor Cherry.

Mac band director Larry Hatch hit the nail on the head when he said, "this has to be the best pep rally of the year, we've got to keep them fired up for three more days until game night."

Hatch said he and his award-winning band will once again load up and head north on the turnpike to support the Highlanders.

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