Football is back!

Empty stadiums, Zoom training among obstacles endured by players during pandemic


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SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT-Fans pack DM’s stadium for the first time in more than a year Sept. 3 to watch DM pummel Gilbert 31-7. The players credit the fans for helping them to a fast 3-1 start.

Ashley Hovendon, Staff writer

“The fans,” said varsity center Andrew Neumann, “are what make the game better.”

Until last year, empty seats at DM football games could not be found. But the pandemic emptied the stadium and the energy level; all that kept the team together was self-motivation and determination.

But now the fans are back–providing a much needed boost to the energy of DM’s football team, which started the season 3-1.

“We couldn’t do it without the fans,” said quarterback Pierce Nielsen, adding playing before empty seats during his junior year made him appreciate the importance of a home crowd.

“[After] actually seeing it, fans do make a difference”. 

The impact fans make

Endless zoom meetings required by social distancing, extra practices because of the extra free time– no matter the change, the football players said they always adapted.

Last year, times were rough for everybody, but playing the game with zero fans in the stands after scoring a touchdown changed the game for the team entirely. 

“Last year we had ten games scheduled, then eight, but due to COVID, it was 6,” Pierce said. 

The players said they learned a valuable lesson: never take anything for granted again.

In order to make up for last season, Wolf Den is expecting to have the more fans and energy in the stands than ever before.

“Kids are more likely to do better in front of friends than family members,” said Officer Nate, DM’s school resource officer. “Even if they don’t know the person, a random stranger saying, ‘Go Wolves’ will add more adrenaline than family members.”

Officer Nate was present for games before and during the pandemic; limiting the crowd to only family members led to a “reduction of energy”. 

Learning experience

As unfortunate as last season was for the team, especially seniors, many important lessons and significant impacts were made during this time.

The team also learned to make the most of these times and trained in the best form they could at the moment.

Neumann, who has played football for DM since his freshman year,  felt the training amount increased because even when they couldn’t train together, they could rely on zoom and he said that overall, “we never lost training”. 

The decrease in time spent together throughout the pandemic has helped players realize how much they missed team bonding. This year, the team is determined to change that.

“We are able to go out together and do activities,” said Pierce, noting that the team has done a better job of getting closer this year. “We just did a team bowling activity.” 

School spirit increase

Desert Mountain’s Wolf Den members said they’ve worked hard to keep student’s engaged and support the Desert Mountain clubs and sports.

“I think there will be lots of spirit all year this year. Everyone has missed going out in the last year and Wolf Den is expecting this year to be better than ever,” said Wolf Den member Arlie Goldman (12). 

Hockey club sponsor Mrs. Varosky has seen more school spirit prior to the start of games.

“It’s definitely an exciting feeling to be back for a somewhat ‘normal’ year,” said Mrs. Varosky, adding that she is happy games are back on for fans during the 2021 season and was “bummed to not attend games last year”. 

Mrs. Varosky said she strongly believes students should be praised for their talents that can take place outside of the classroom.

“During the school day, I get to see how awesome DM students are in their English skills,” she said, “but being invited to games gives me the opportunity to learn other areas of strength that our students have.

“Plus it’s cathartic to get to yell at students outside of class.”

Sports are another great way she is able to connect with students; activities can be not only a social outing, but a great conversation starter. This keeps teachers and students involved and relieves some of the stress they may feel during class time.

It’s awesome having fans back in the stadium. The Wolf Den has been rocking. [This is an] awesome atmosphere for our players to go out and compete in!

— Coach Hamilton

A message to the students

The Wolf Den has been selling tons of shirts this year and sold out completely the week of the Chaparral game.

This year, Goldman and other Wolf Den members have been asking for all students and teachers to come to the games, “so we can show everyone what school spirit is about!”

Mrs. Varosky plans on attending “as many games as I’m invited to.”

“I know teachers love to be invited to games, but students sometimes forget,” Mrs. Varosky said. “If you’re reading this- invite your teachers to games!”

FOOTBALL FEVER – Fans show their patriotism before DM’s victory over Gilbert. “I loved it,” he said. “The fans gave us way more energy. They believed in us,” said quarterback Pierce Nielsen. “Even when I got hurt they knew we could win.”  Later in the season, during DM’s 17-7 victory over Peoria, Nielsen suffered what may be a season-ending injury.

Game reactions

As everyone knows, the first game of the season was a success. The Wolves treated their fans to a great 34-7 win;  the Wolf Den was filled with lots of school spirit and excitement.

Coach Hamilton has also noticed that playing with fans makes for a better game environment.

“It’s awesome having fans back in the stadium,” he said. “The Wolf Den has been rocking. [This is an] awesome atmosphere for our players to go out and compete in!” 

Everyone sensed a difference in energy levels before the game had even started. Playing with fans makes the game more exciting and makes it easier for the team to get hyped.

Pierce  was injured during the game and is scheduled for surgery that could be season ending. But he said he’ll never forget the atmosphere.

“I loved it,” he said. “The fans gave us way more energy. They believed in us. Even when I got hurt they knew we could win.”