It started with a group of friends looking for an excuse to hang out and cheer on their team. Since then, it has blossomed into an integral part of every sporting event at Whitman-Hanson — the superfans.
Back in 1998, buddies Brian Clark, Andy Cook, Charlie Finn, Jonathan Hall, Brian Kenney, Brian Lankiewicz, Josh Masse, Matt Morgan, Brian O’Donnell, Kevin Sullivan and Matt Quimby had an idea: Just because they weren’t on the football team, didn’t mean they weren’t going to be active on game day.
“All of us that had like T-shirts made, we all painted our face for every game and tailgated,” Lankiewicz said.
They called themselves superfans. They even traveled to road games – like one instance where they went to Plymouth North and were waiting for the team bus ready to cheer on the guys when they excited the highway.
“We left before them and we were at one of the rest stops and we were all decked out or whatever and we were screaming and waving at them going by [to] kind of got them riled up,” Quimby recalled
Said Lankiewicz: “Stuff like that was a blast.”
At home games, the superfans tried to rile the Panthers up with a different method, albeit one that’s not advised to do today.
“Me and Brian O’Donnell went around and picked up a bunch of election signs, spun them around and we decided to play a little psychological warfare,” Cook said. “So, we painted Duxbury on the signs and stuck them in front of the school to kind of piss of the Whitman-Hanson guys and have them think Duxbury disrespected their school.”
Cook was also always one of the loudest ones at the game.
“I had an old big cowbell, we went to all the marine places to find the boat horns, the airhorns, so we had all those and we’d be shooting those off,” Cook said.
When Thanksgiving came around, it was time for the superfans to play both sides of the ball at the same time – offense and defense.
“Whether it was crashing an Abington bonfire or huddling back at Whitman-Hanson and protecting the Panther from Abington coming to spray paint it green, it gave us a unity among ourselves and the football team as a whole,” Hall said.
The superfans didn’t confinethemselves to football games, either. They were instantly becoming engrained in the Whitman-Hanson sports scene.
“I actually remember when we were wrestling Hingham when I was in high school, the whole crowd was red and black face painted and everything like that,” Quimby said.
Lankiewicz said he recalls a time when he was asked to come out and cheer on his classmates.
“The cheerleaders had a competition once and they invited us to ride on their bus to be their cheering section in the stands for their competition and that was a blast,” he said. “We were pretty obnoxious us.”
The number of superfans hasgrown from 11 two decades ago to over 900 at W-H today. The school’s athletic director Bob Rodgers said he cannot stress enough the importance of the role of superfans at W-H.
“We feel that when students connect with their school and take pride in who we are, their entire experience here at Whitman Hanson is enhanced,” Rodgers said. “The program also has allowed us to create a culture where our students know what is acceptable behavior for fans.
“For the student-athletes, having their classmates there to support them adds to the experience. It’s nice to win games and championships, but it’s so much more meaningful when you know other people are on board with you. I would compare it to a great vacation, it’s not where you go that matters; what matters most is who you go with.”
Two years ago, a superfan-led group made history ahead of a W-H boys’ basketball state semifinal game by organizing the most fan busses ever to see a team play at TD Garden.
“The kids know how much fun it is to wear the school colors and cheer on their team regardless of whether we win or lose,” Rodgers said.
Hall said when he reflects back on 20 years ago, he could not have imagined the impact superfans would have on W-H today.
“It’s insane,” Hall said. “It’s just incredible, obviously. I would have never anticipated that it would have grown this much, but I’m certainly glad that it has. It’s good for the school. It’s good for the community. It’s good for the student body at Whitman-Hanson be able to have that. It’s not just a sport, it’s part of the culture of those two towns.”