By Mark E. Vogler
LAWRENCE — After a close first quarter, the Central Catholic High School boys basketball team breezed to a 13-point victory last night.
But for much of the game, it sure sounded like their rivals — Andover High’s Golden Warriors — were winning the Division 1 North Semifinals showdown.
The Lawrence High School basketball court served as a neutral site for the game, though Andover High’s fan club, known as Jack’s Jungle, rooted their team on like they owned the court — even when Central Catholic’s Raiders were winning by 18 points.
Central Catholic’s student fans, led by their famous neon Green Man, were loud. But they were outnumbered and no match for Andover High’s boisterous fans, clad in gold and blue T-shirts with “Welcome to the Jungle” printed on the front.
“We took four buses here tonight,” said Adam Weisman, an 18-year-old senior who is credited with organizing Jack’s Jungle, named after Andover’s starting guard Jack Konevich.
After being student manager of the basketball team for his first three years, Weisman said he decided it would be fun to run the student cheering section.
“Our fans section hasn’t been great for a few years, especially since what happened last year,” Weisman said, referring to the hazing scandal that led to several starters being suspended or kicked off the team. “But this year, we worked hard to bring the spirit back. There’s about 300 of us (students) here tonight to cheer our team on.”
Helping Weisman to pump up the Andover High fans was Ryan MacRae, a senior who referred to herself as “a super fan” and acted like one.
“The school voted the both of us the most spirited,” the 18-year-old said of the honor she shared with Weisman. “So, I take that to heart and want to do my school proud. I wear the same shirt and the same sweatpants every game because I am superstitious.”
Andover High’s principal Dr. Christopher Lord proudly wore his Warrior’s letterman jacket as he led the jungle cheering section in a few routines.
“I want to see if I can get them fired up,” he said, before taking his place in front of Jack’s Jungle at the end of the first half, with the game slipping out of Andover’s grasp.
“Our fans are very passionate and I wanted to make sure I got connected to the students,” he said, explaining why he had a special jacket made to wear to all high school sporting events.
On the winner’s side of the court, 17-year-old junior Colby Siegwalt was dressed up as the new “Green Man” trying get Raider fans into the game.
“I’m just trying to fill some big shoes and keep the legacy going,” Siegwalt said. “This is one of my first games doing this, and I’m just trying to get the fans pumped up. We’re trying to get the spirit back at Central Catholic.”
His “Green Man” routine wasn’t as dramatic as it was several years ago, when the student who wore the suit did some crowd surfing and had help from other characters, like Moses, who parted the Red Sea.
Jaffrie Perrotti, an assistant principal and associate dean of students, compared Central Catholic fans to New England Patriots fans.
“The Central Catholic fans get spoiled, because they have been so good for so long,” he said as he stood near the basketball court, just behind the Central High cheerleaders. He didn’t exhibit the same passion that Dr. Lord did, in leading Andover fans in cheers.
At least one of the Central High fans took umbrage to the view that Andover High’s cheering students were louder.
“There’s more of them, but I don’t think they’re as good as us,” said senior Andy Montilla, 18.
“We’re a better crowd. We get way more into it, because we have a reputation to live up to,” he said.
The fans of the two rival schools will get to fight it out again tonight, when the girls basketball teams battle at Tewksbury High School.