Youthful school spirit gets a nudge from parents when Fridays come around in the fall.

Starting tonight, high school football season is back. The Columbus East and Columbus North football teams both start their regular seasons on the road.

The Bull Dogs will be loading up the team bus for a short drive north to Franklin. The Olympians are headed west on State Road 46 to meet a waiting Bloomington North squad. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.

Parent-led booster clubs will be heading the charge for fan support as they do every year. For example, North’s Gridiron Club and East’s Quarterback Club made sure both teams were well fed, hosting team dinners Thursday night.

The East players and parents ended their pasta dinner in the school cafeteria with a hug line as they always do. Quarterback Club president Lisa McCarter said feeding 100 boys and coaches requires a lot of coordination.

McCarter has a sign-up sheet for every pasta dinner, allowing parents to commit to bringing a specific item. There is always spaghetti, meatballs and fettuccine to go along with bread, fruit and vegetables at ever dinner. There is also a different special each time and Thursday’s was pulled pork sandwiches.

The hug line is a way for players to show their appreciation by embracing each individual parent who played a role in the dinner.

“They might give high-fives to the dads, but they hug all the moms,” McCarter said. “Once they get going with it, they enjoy it. I know the parents do. It gives us a chance to get to know the boys better, see them without their helmets on so we know what they look like.”

McCarter’s son Cole is the center for the Olympians and has been with the team since his freshman year. Lisa McCarter has been president of the Quarterback Club since her older son K.J., who was a senior in 2015, played.

Cole McCarter has been to multiple team dinners and said there are always fun moments that happen during the fellowship. As the team’s center, it is important for him to be in sync with the rest of his fellow line and his quarterback, Josh Major. The team dinners help them bond more so they can be more in tune on the field.

“I feel like (the dinners) are really important because feeling like brothers with the dude next to you makes you play harder,” Cole McCarter said. “Just because you know you have to battle not only for yourself, but them too.”

The North High School open house required the Gridiron Club to move its first weekly dinner from the cafeteria to serving out of the football field concession stands. Dinner duties for parents associated with the Gridiron Club depends on the grade level of their student athlete. Each group of parents from senior to freshman have two weeks allotted during the season to assume meal-preparation duties.

“Typically, we try to get some of the meals from community restaurants, as well,” Gridiron parent coordinator Julia Wilson said. “We’ll get pasta, bread sticks, salad and vegetables. Usually the team parents make the dessert.”

Sometimes the North parents will cook for the entire dinner, but this week, they ordered pasta from Amazing Joe’s. The Gridiron Club always prepares to serve an estimated 120 people each dinner. Pasta is always a go-to choice for the dinners because the carbs help the players store energy for game day.

Bull Dogs wide receiver Jaylen Flemmons bonded with his teammates from varsity down to the freshman team while eating at the picnic tables near the concession stands. The dinners do a good job of molding the relationships between players throughout the different levels so they can all support each other on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

The North dinner ended with an optional chapel that is usually held in the cafeteria, but took place on the freshman side of the locker room this week. Chapel, led by team chaplain Tom Rust, normally last about 15 to 20 minutes.

“We always have a chapel afterwards,” Flemmons said. “For the people that come, it’s optional. We can just get right spiritually before we go to bed.”

Hosting dinners on Thursday nights isn’t the only support the players get from their parents. Both teams receive pregame and postgame snacks/meals on game day.

And for fans, booster clubs organize tailgating activities. The tailgating helps create a more eventful game day experience for the players.

“That’s a huge part of it,” North coach Tim Bless said. “You want a great game day at home or on the road. You would hope our boys feel the great intensity. That’s part of the whole atmosphere.”

East coach Bob Gaddis said the main responsibility of the club is to help provide funding. The Olympians’ annual golf outing and car wash helped raise money that bought this year’s new film equipment.

North fundraisers consist of selling car wash tickets and trash bags. The Bull Dogs also host a golf outing every summer.

Quarterback Club (Columbus East)

Club president: Lisa McCarter

Facebook Page: Columbus East football https://www.facebook.com/ColumbusEastFootball/timeline/

Upcoming Event: North-East rivalry game tailgate on Aug. 26.

Gridiron Club (Columbus North)

Parent Coordinator: Julia Wilson

Facebook Page: Columbus North Football https://www.facebook.com/Columbus-North-Football-211418632229463/

Upcoming Event: North-East rivalry game tailgate on Aug. 26.

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.