Friday Night Lights Are So, So Much Better This Year

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

When 5:30 pm rolls around on Friday nights, Woodforest Bank Stadium immediately becomes a place of battle. The cheerleaders begin to warm up on the sidelines. The band and color guard rehearse their award winning halftime performance. The Liberty Belles arrive with the sound of laughter and excitement. The smell of buttered popcorn and cheese nachos lingers from the concession area. In the distance, the aroma of grilled meat from the many tailgating families and fans add to the smorgasbord.

Before you know it, the metallic bleachers are covered in Oak Ridge red, white, and blue and the subtle hum of the stadium lights are drowned out by the roar of enthusiastic War Eagle fans.

As any local in the Oak Ridge community would know, the War Eagle football season has been one for the books with the team sporting a much improved 7-2 record and a guaranteed playoff berth. But what would the season be like without the hundreds of devoted fans that come to support their team every Friday night?

“I can’t imagine playing to an empty stadium”, said ORHS varsity running back George Stephenson on the feeling of Friday Night Lights. “The fans make it amazing and even unique. A Hollywood producer couldn’t describe how amazing it feels.”

Most people would agree with Stephenson, as the crowd has been much more immense and involved compared to last year. Oak Ridge band member and senior Maci Wallin added, ”There has been much more spirit because the football team has been winning. As a result, a lot more students are becoming more involved at pep rallies and games.”

In regards to pep rallies, the boss of every Oak Ridge high school pep rally, Cheer coach Sarah Parker remarked, “Pep rallies are about bringing the school together as a team and family, showing our spirit for all sports, clubs and organizations.”

Even though Oak Ridge spends all week preparing for each game, Fridays seem to be the heart of it all. All walks of people come together for one day to support the team and with all of the school spirit each person brings, Oak Ridge becomes united.

Oak Ridge student Ashlyn Ortiz summed it up best. “We start in the gym all together as friends at the pep rally. Upon showing up at Woodforest, we are then a family and nothing is better than that feeling.”

With Oak Ridge playing The Woodlands in their final regular season game, school spirit is at an all time high in anticipation of a monumental upset of their across I-45 rival.

Like all War Eagle faithful, I don’t think about the season ending and thus no more Friday Night Lights. I choose to believe that our school’s football team will end the season with a victory sometime in mid-December.

It’s a great time to be a War Eagle!

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Oak Ridge Cheer – State Champions

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

The Oak Ridge High School cheer squad traveled to San Marcos’s Texas State University to compete in the UCA Southwest Texas State Championships this past weekend and came back to the Ridge in possession of the 1st place banner!!! You read that correctly – Oak Ridge Cheer=STATE CHAMPIONS!

With an intense two and a half minute routine that included standing/running tumbling, jumps, dance, basket tosses, pyramids and a cheer section with signs, poms (pompoms back in the day) and megaphones, the girls were very clean and didn’t drop any stunts.

What is even more amazing is the Tuesday before the championships, Coach Sarah Parker had to pull a “flyer” in Reagan Gibbs. Losing the talented Gibbs was a huge loss. The squad does have alternates but not included among the alternates is a flyer. Coach Parker had to bring up freshman Nicole Traylor, teach her the routine on Thursday morning, and then go through the routine on Thursday afternoon so Nicole could be ready to perform in front of the whole student body at the Friday pep rally. Well, Nicole did great, didn’t skip a beat, and made zero mistakes. For a cheer athlete, it takes months to mentally and physically prepare yourself for competitions like this championship and the frosh did not let her team down.

Captains are Kayla VonArb, Kaelin Dryer, Taylor Eastin, and Hannah Diller.  These four athletes as well as all of the seniors have been excellent examples in leading the squad on the floor.

Head Coach Sarah Parker is assisted by freshman coach,Courtney Currie and JV coach Sarah Mayfield. Ms. Parker, who is sometimes just a little outspoken, will take it from here in this Oak Ridge Now Q&A:

How did the team qualify for the Championships in New Braunfels? 

Two competitions lead up to the UCA Southwest Texas State Championships….the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship-Regionals and State. We took both this year. 

What stood out for your squad the most that you think separated yourselves from everyone else?

We were very clean and one of the few teams to not drop any stunts. The routine we used we have been working on since August and the hard work paid off. We wowed the crowd with our skills. Many teams dropped (fell) during their stunt sequence or ending pyramid. Mostly, we were able to stand out because of our skill level and flawless routine. This was some of the best teamwork I’ve ever seen and the video.

Take a look at the video: Oak Ridge Cheer State Championship performance

What type of floor was used for the competition?

Dead floor. It’s against safety rules for a high school team to compete on a “spring” floor.   

Oak Ridge was not picked to win this competition by the so called cheer guru’s. After Oak Ridge received the hardware, what was the reaction around the arena?

Many UCA staff members came up to me afterwards, remembering us from camp and previous years and they could not believe how good we were. There were two teams that were shooting for us and expected to beat us, but we took them by surprise. Of course, It wasn’t a surprise to us.

How did your sub-varsity squad’s do?

Our JV and Freshmen placed fourth and for it being their first time competing at State, that is very respectable. 

Was there a mascot competition? If so, how did your mascot do?

Kareem Thompson, our mascot pulled third out of twelve. That was the first mascot competition for him as well as for Oak Ridge High School. Kareem did an amazing job and he even surprised us with his routine.

What is next for these athletes?

Our next stop is Nationals.  We are a realistic team, so our number one goal is to make it to finals. There could be over 40 teams in our division and to make it to finals would be our ultimate dream. So far, we are undefeated.  Nationals will have us head to head with multiple national champion schools and we are praying we just do our best. 

Any further comments, Coach Parker?

As a team, the girls decided to come up to the school on Saturdays to put in more hours to make sure they were all ready for State.  After a solid performance in front of the school Friday, the girls feel that they earned some well deserved respect. After we won State on Sunday, I was elated with the amount of support from the student body who believed in us. We’ve had some really great teams here but what set this team apart from the others is that we were like a family and everyone got along great. These girls were willing to go the extra mile to get where they wanted to be. We are finally getting our name out there and schools from other states are starting to contact us for help and information. As for me personally, I’m not out there on the floor and will take no credit but I do feel as if everything I’ve fought and worked for is finally paying off. I’m extremely proud to work for Oak Ridge and Mr. Johnson and I appreciate him entrusting me with this important position.  Our next stop is Nationals. 

Coach Parker said the team will proudly display the championship banner in the gym.

SW Texas UCA Regionals: 1st Place… Check

Cheer Power Christmas: 1st Place… Check

SW Texas UCA State: 1st Place… Check

UCA Nationals: Feb 7-11:  ?????????????????

Go get’em girls (and you too, Kareem)!

Comments to Doug Sarant at Doug@oakridgenow.com

Photos below courtesy of Jim Eastin.

 

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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Oak Ridge Band Brings Donation to FDNY

Oak Ridge Band member Tyler Humphrey with firefighters at the station where the band dropped off the donation.

Band seniors at FDNY

Tuesday the Oak Ridge High School Band, in New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, visited a a fire station to present them with the donations raised from the band’s Miracle on 34th Street fundraising campaign. The fundraising effort, benefiting the New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation, was something our Oak Ridge kids undertook in November, to give something back to the city that is providing the band and ORHS with an opportunity to shine on a national stage.

Oak Ridge Band director Jack Allen with an FDNY firefighter

The fire department they visited included a chalk board, now encased in glass (pictured above, to the left of Tyler Humphrey), with the shift schedule from 9-11-2001. It lists the captain and four others from that shift.

Band president Evan Moore scoping out the performance area

The band also took the opportunity to check out some of the parade route, including the performance area in front of Macy’s.

 

The weather forecast in New York City Thursday morning is blustery, with temperatures expected to be in the 40s, sustained winds up to 23 mph, and wind gusts up to 35 mph. Hold on to those hats!

Band president Evan Moore at the Macy's awards luncheon

9th grade campus principal Julie Miller at the Hard Rock Cafe

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Oak Ridge Cheer Excels in Regionals #oneteamonedream

If you have attended a few Oak Ridge High School football games this year, a couple of things stand out. First, we always win halftime – the Oak Ridge Band and Color Guard and Liberty Belles blow every other school out of the water. The second? Our cheerleaders are better than your cheerleaders. And we don’t mean that they’re prettier than everyone else (that’s a given). They are more enthusiastic, more athletic, better choreographed, and more together than cheerleading squads of other schools. Hands down. And they have way better smiles.

Now they are winning the hardware to back up those claims. Both the Oak Ridge varsity and JV/freshman cheerleading teams excelled in the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Regionals this past weekend: the varsity picked up the coveted first-place trophy, and the JV/freshman team placed second in three events. Their success was the result of months of practice and dedication, both by the girls and their coaches.

Varsity has been preparing for this competition since last year.  The team attended tumbling classes all summer, and slowly started putting their routine together in August. These girls practice during cheer class as well as two extra practices a week at Woodlands Elite, going full out each time, leaving nothing untouched. They have been a family since the beginning, crushing their competition at camp and dominating the floor ever since. Their motto this year is #oneteamonedream.

Coach Sarah Parker is excited about the prospects for this year’s cheer team, “I truly feel like this is the year, and this is the team that will take Oak Ridge Cheer to the next level.  We received our highest scores in three years, and would have easily made it to finals last year with these scores.  We were the first team who competed, so who knows? We could have scored even higher.  We are taking it one step at a time.  This first place win has been exactly what this team needed.  Every day is a new day, and anything can happen at competition.  As long as these girls did their best, it is all that truly matters. Not only did we walk away with first place and our heads held high, but we received our bid to compete at Nationals.”

Coach Parker added, “We have been to this competition three times now- second place in 2010, second place in 2011, and finally bringing home first place in 2012, even beating out a team who placed second at Nationals last year.  For the past two years, the team seemed to always fall short, whether it was a dropped stunt, missed tumbling, or a pyramid that didn’t hit. We placed third at state last year, and didn’t make it past the prelims at Nationals.  These girls are competing with teams who have won National Championships for years in a row, with schools who have been competing since the early 90’s.  Oak Ridge Varsity are the new kids in town, and we are hoping to make our school proud.”

In order to better prepare the cheer program for competition, the cheer staff decided to have the JV and freshman squads compete at the UCA Regionals this year.  They combined the two teams, and they’ve been practicing for about three weeks together, preparing for the meet.  Many of the members of the combined JV/freshman squad are new cheerleaders for Oak Ridge, and several have never competed, so this was a new experience all the way around.

Coaches Courtney Currie and Sarah Mayfield collaborated to develop routines that would work best for the combined group. The JV/freshman team competed in the Game Time category, bringing three routines to the table – Fight Song, Time Out Cheer, and Time Out Dance.  After suffering a few setbacks, the coaches and team pulled together and were able to bring home second place in all three categories.

So what’s next for Oak Ridge Cheer? They have the Cheer Power Christmas Championships coming up on December 8. and return to the Southwest Texas UCA State competition on January 20. The National High School Cheerleading competition is held February 9-10.

We are all well aware of how good the Oak Ridge cheer teams are. Now the rest of the world is finding out what we have known for a while.

Below is a video of the varsity team’s first-place floor routine. Below that are photos from the competition. The varsity team is in black, with the JV/freshman team in blue.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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How Did the ORHS Band Earn a Spot in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The Oak Ridge High School band is performing this Thursday morning in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese

The Oak Ridge High School Marching Band is in the big city of New York gearing up for their Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade performance.

As told to Oak Ridge Now by ORHS band director, Jack Allen, we take a closer look at how this grand opportunity came to fruition and how they have prepared leading up to the big day.

 How did the band earn a spot in the Macy’s Parade?

 All bands that are in the parade apply for a performance opportunity by March 1st – 18  months before the parade.  We submitted an application that consisted of a performance DVD, director bios, band resume, newspaper articles, and photographs of the band.  There were over 160 bands that applied and 11 were selected for the parade.  High school, college, and professional bands applied, and we were one of the eleven that were selected from all over the world to participate in the 2012 parade.

What have you been doing to prepare? This is a big parade so you must have a lot of material to work on. 

We have mostly been conditioning the kids for the 2.5 mile parade route through Manhattan.  We have been marching 10 laps around our track every day to help build up their endurance.  We have also been learning the drill to our 1 minute 15 second show that we will perform on NBC.  We will perform this show at the game tonight vs. TWHS both to the home and visitor stands.

As far as music goes, we have been working on our music for the parade for over a month now.  We are the last band to march in the parade (save the best for last!!!) and we are bringing in Santa Clause.  Our parade theme is Winter Wonderland, so we have been playing Christmas music since the middle of October.

How did the band do in the regional competition earlier this month?

The band competed at the Bands of America Super Regional in San Antonio at the beginning of November.  The band had a great performance in the Alamo Dome in front of thousands of people.  Our score improved over the course of the season by about 5 points (pretty big in the band world), and we’re really proud of our kids for their hard work this fall.

Because you were in the band competition you had to miss the Lufkin/Oak Ridge game. When a conflict exists like your having a comp to go to, how do you collaborate with the junior highs to make sure everything goes off as smoothly as possible at the football game? 

We have awesome Jr. High Directors in Josh Gibson at Irons and Amanda Pritchard at York.   We had been planning this football game with them since May.  It’s a big stretch to get 300 Jr. High Kids ready for anything, but to have them be able to perform at a football game and do it well takes a lot of preparation.  

Mrs. Pritchard and Mr. Gibson and the York and Irons bands have been been looking forward to this game since we started talking about it last year.

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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ORHS Film and Videography Program Helps Coaches, Students

ORHS Senior Renee Foskett has been performing videography duties for Oak Ridge athletic teams for three years now. Photo courtesy of Doug Sarant.

There are a lot of behind the scenes folks who contribute to the success of our schools and their athletic programs. They don’t normally get the recognition they deserve. Today we profile Coach Steve Standefer, who runs the Film and Videography program at Oak Ridge High School.

Coach Standefer is in his first year at Oak Ridge High School and 12th year overall. He has several titles and is quite the busy educator. His titles are many: Special Education teacher as well as a football and baseball coach. Those three positions have “Coach Stan” busy enough but it doesn’t even come close to stopping right there. He is also the Film and Videography guru for Coach Rush’s athletic program.

I know – you’re thinking what’s the big deal – he films athletic events, hands over the film to the coaches of  whatever sport he is filming and his day is done. Fat chance! As you will read in this article, the F&V department for the athletic program is quite involved and serves several purposes not the least of which is educating students as to the program so they can further their education in college and then make a career out of it. “Coach Stan” will be stealing my by-line today as he describes what this much needed program entails and how it benefits the students in the field of Film and Videography as well as how vital it is to the athletic department at Oak Ridge High School.

“Film and videography in football is not something new. My father-in-law tells me of the days when his then new head coach, Bum Phillips, came in and brought filming into their program when he was in high school, and that was many moons ago. I enjoy what I do with videography and see it as an extremely vital tool for coaching and teaching. Kids these days can hear you say something all day long to correct something, but until they “see” it with their own eyes, they don’t believe it. That’s why we say “the eye in the sky, doesn’t lie!

There are so many aspects of the game that we can correct from the first Monday practice in August that could affect a State Championship in December. Comically, most coaches in my position are thrown into this role as a place that no one else wants to be. I accepted it as an important role.

It all started when I was in my second year coaching where I was “entrusted” this role by our head coach and athletic director, Danny Long, 11 years ago in Jacksonville, Texas. He called us all in and said we have this new computer/scouting program that will be associated with film and I need my junior high staff to handle it. Of course, being in my second year of coaching, and one of the youngest and probably more “techno-savvy” of the bunch, I was unanimously voted into the role. It involved very long nights, lots of blank video tapes and a mountain of VCR’s.

That’s where it all began. Before this time, all I knew was to watch film and pick up tendencies from my opponent from a player’s standpoint or as a neophyte coach trying to figure it all out as to what the other coaches on the team were watching for and picking their brains as a rookie. Once thrown into this role, I realized its importance and we began to watch more than just game film. I noticed that practices and drills needed to be filmed so that we could correct our mistakes before Friday night.

ORHS Coach Steve Standefer - Photo courtesy of Andy Brown

John Tyler High School was my first opportunity to expand this idea and the concept that had been gnawing at me as my responsibilities and role grew. Dereck Rush, after taking on the role as head coach at John Tyler, approached me as being his video coordinator and a coach with his new staff. I accepted without delay. I had played a role as a junior high coordinator at two different middle schools that fed John Tyler high school. I was loyal to John Tyler already by having scouted and supported the program all along. The video coordinator at the time wanted me to take on the role when he left and recommended me for that position. I was grateful for the recommendation and to Coach Rush for trusting me in this position.

That first year was a difficult one and another rebuild from all angles. All night film breakdown sessions, lengthy downloads, and technical difficulties were commonplace. As we focused on rebuilding efforts for the next year, this was when and where the idea of growing a videography program that compared to any Division I program in the nation began. Digital Sports Video (DSV), who was later bought out by hudl.com, was new to the market and we had become a pilot of their newest program. Long gone were the days of reel to reel film and VHS tapes to a more digital footprint of video and technology.

Tyler ISD Athletic Director Danny Long signed off on the growth plan that increased our video and technical program associated with athletics. That is when our program sky rocketed on and off the field and we saw great advances in our program from a technical standpoint. Video became an essential tool with the more interactive filming of drills, practices and games throughout the spring and upcoming years.

Our athletes benefited by seeing themselves and learning from their actions on film which led to future years of success in our program. As our program grew, so did my role which included assuming the role as recruiting coordinator as we expanded our efforts in helping our athletes get recruited. We went from having a few athletes sign college scholarships each year to multiple athletes signing every year. All along, they had the athletic talent to go anywhere, but we were able to promote them to more areas than just the regional markets. We began to push our athletes to concentrate even more on qualifying for any college in America. The advances of the Internet helped promote our kids to all reaches of the country.

Big time programs were now not the only ones to sign, or even see our athletes – now, all colleges could. We made pushes to increase our numbers annually. We were never promising scholarships, but we were suggesting to our athletes that if they make the grade and can do the job, we are going to do our best to get them there (scholarship). We had one even go as far as the University of Hawaii who is still playing today.

Then it hit me, the idea of recruiting expanded to my filmers, too. Who else better to promote when trying to get the ones on the other side of the camera into college. That very next year, I recruited three freshmen and a sophomore to be my first ones to promote to the collegiate level. I taught them everything I could so they could be “marketable” to the collegiate level. In fact, their training came into a crucial role of importance when I was involved in a “gator accident” at Rose Stadium after the last district game of the sub-varsity season, severely breaking my leg. They stepped in and filled my role when no other coach could. I was proud of them as mere freshmen in high school. Though I never missed a game through a quarterfinal run at that time, they took care of business during the week. It was a proud moment in my teaching career. I vowed from that point on that I would promote them as much as humanly possible. If they could get accepted to a school, I was going to do my best to promote them as a video manager and get them some assistance in scholarships or as an undergraduate paid assistant. I still do to this day.

Upon leaving John Tyler High School, I recommended my role to be transferred to the current video  coordinator, where I told him his biggest assets were his managers and to do everything he can to promote them to the collegiate level.

Last Spring, when Coach Rush was being considered for his current position of head football coach/athletic director, he gave me a “heads up” speech that included, “If it is in God’s will for me to have this position, I am taking you with me!” I gladly accepted upon his acceptance of his new position. It was all a leap of faith, but one that I believed that Coach Rush and his vision of BELIEVE was not just for the kids. It was for us coaches too. Coach Rush is a very strong man in his faith and I respect that more than words could say.

As I addressed the needs to rebuild this program from a video and technological side of things, Coach
Rush asked me, “what do I need?” and by the graciousness of the budget and of the booster club members, it far exceeded my first year expectations. I am truly thankful for the blessed individuals who have contributed to the success of this videography program and their input. It has been a great start to begin the growth of this program. Their ability to see my vision and goals of this program made me realize that I, too, was following and what God had in store for me. One comment made by a booster member confirmed it all. “ I am just doing what God told me to do,” I knew then I was in the right spot.

Summer was over and two-a-days were upon us. I had the equipment and I had what I needed to get started. What I didn’t have was my most important asset – my students. I made a phone call to Stuart Norton, Football Booster Club President, and asked if he could promote this need for Student Managers.

This will remain as a standing request every year. Then, all of a sudden, I had five, then four. I lost one to her skills on the volleyball court and I wish her well. I currently have four of the best managers anyone would want. I have one senior and three sophomores.

Renee Foskett is my senior lead manager and she has served in this role from her sophomore year and plans to continue her videography skills at the collegiate level as a video manager as she pursues her post-secondary education. She is one of the top students in her class and has been accepted to Stephen F. Austin State University, Abilene Christian University and Louisiana State University. We are currently pursuing opportunities in each of these three programs as a scholarship manager or paid undergraduate assistant. I am training her in regards to the input and film breakdown aspects of the Hudl.com program to enhance her marketability to any of these programs.

The other three, Zack Morgan, Richard Cardenas, and Andrew Stack are sophomores and will be benefiting from three more years of experience that will hopefully aid them in our efforts to promote them to the next level. They are the most important tools in my arsenal. These students know the business and fun side of videography and will put our athletes in the best angle possible. I couldn’t be successful without them.

Since the school year began, Baseball has also installed the hudl.com program into its practice regimen and we are anticipating the growth of videography in our baseball program. After discussing the vision with Bryan Morytko, Baseball Booster Club President, we are excited to include the plans of having the first of its kind video tool that will promote our baseball program for home and away games and be the first in the Houston market to have such a tool. This will help our kids tremendously. The installation ofthis new program for baseball will allow the coaches and players to begin filming drills and practices for review to use as a teaching tool through the off-season. This will be a vital tool for our baseball success at Oak Ridge High School. Baseball is just another sport that will reap the benefits of video as a teaching tool for our kids at Oak Ridge.

Ultimately my role as video coordinator is to promote our kids in front of and behind the camera and building a curriculum that promotes all kids and all sports at Oak Ridge High School. As you can tell, my program is my passion when it comes to my athletic role here at Oak Ridge.

There is not much to tell about myself as I would rather promote others and enjoy being behind the scenes. My career path goes like this: I am a Stephen F. Austin State University graduate. This is my 12th year teaching and coaching, and I started out in Van, Texas as varsity running back coach and assistant basketball coach. I then left for Jacksonville and served in many roles there to include moving into video coordinating. After Jacksonville, I moved to Tyler as a junior high coordinator at two stops then John Tyler. Finally, I am here at Oak Ridge as a Special Education teacher, video coordinator, recruiting coordinator with Coach Terry Mills, assistant defensive ends coach with Coach James Croley, freshmen defensive ends coach and assistant baseball coach.

I am happily married to my wife, Teri Ann, and we have a daughter, Joy, who is a competitive gymnast and lives out every day as a true “Joy” in my life. I wouldn’t be anywhere without these two in my life. They are my gift from God. “

Now you know everything you need to know about the Film and Videography department, including the motivated head of the department and the hard working students who help run it. Oak Ridge High School is raising the bar in every department. Soon, when the Oak Ridge athletic department is sending teams deep into the 5A playoffs, you can bet that the Film and Videography department had a lot to do with it.

F&V is just one of many “Behind the Scenes” articles you will find only at Oak Ridge Now. We will be promoting the many school programs that make Oak Ridge high school a smooth running operation. You may or may not have heard of some but you can bet that all are just as important as the other as the school continues to raise the bar.

Comments to doug@oakridgenow.com

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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Band Hopes to Create Its Own Miracle on 34th Street

Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese

The Oak Ridge War Eagle Marching Band is headed to New York later this month to perform in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. They’ll not only be performing in front of a huge NYC crowd, but they’ll also be seen by millions of viewers around the world, representing their school, our community, and the State of Texas.

That’s cool. Really cool. What’s better? They are not just thinking of themselves for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The Oak Ridge band directors, members, and boosters are looking to make an even bigger impact on the streets of New York City. They are organizing the War Eagles’ Miracle on 34th Street fundraising campaign.

The mission of this campaign is to raise funds for the New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation, which has provided support for many communities that have suffered the wrath of Superstorm Sandy. The Foundation has been an integral part of the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts assisting the victims of this massive storm.

Oak Ridge High School is seeking donations from members of our community and their friends and family. The goal is to raise as much money as possible, and to present all raised funds to the Foundation during the band’s trip to New York.

They are asking that all checks be made out to the New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation, and delivered to the band before Friday, November 16. We encourage everyone to donate something if they are able, and make the Oak Ridge fundraising campaign a success.

Also, sometime this holiday season, take a couple of hours and watch the original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street. It’s now 75 years old, and it’s still a terrific story. The scene where Kris Kringle talks to the Dutch girl is wonderful, as is the movie’s most famous line, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”

Common sense says that there’s no way in the world the Oak Ridge High School band would perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Have faith, Oak Ridge.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Homecoming Parade Marks Beginning of This Week’s Festivities

It’s that time of year again: Homecoming for Oak Ridge High School. And yes, that means the big Friday night game, and the dance and, of course, mums. Lots and lots of mums. But that all comes later. Homecoming festivities were kicked off Wednesday afternoon with the traditional Homecoming Parade down Oak Ridge School Road.

Many of us spend our days in traffic, in Downtown Houston, or the Galleria, or some other fast-moving overpopulated area in a city of over four million folks. But we get to come home to a community where people begin lining up at 5:00 for the 6:00 parade, which lasts all of about 20 minutes. They find a nice shady spot, pull out the lawn chairs, and wait for the chance to take pictures of their kids and their kids’ friends. It’s a bit of Americana that few other schools in Houston or even The Woodlands get to experience.

This year’s parade float winners were:

  • 3rd place – Freshman football
  • 2nd place – Cosmetology
  • 1st place – Tennis team

If you weren’t able to make it yesterday, here are a few photos of what went on: 

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Oak Ridge Band Honors Seniors and Their Parents

Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese

Last Friday night, before the football game vs. Bryan at Woodforest Stadium, the Oak High School Band honored the Senior Class and their parents. They pretty much have to honor the parents after all those folks have been through over the past seven or eight years: those oh-so-glorious middle school band concerts, the cost or purchasing and maintaining instruments, band camp, band trips, early morning band practice, volunteer work with the band, fundraising that seems to go on forever, and the joy of listening to one’s child learn a new instrument.

Without band parents, ORHS would not have an award-winning band. They deserve any accolades they can grab. If you missed it, here are some pictures of last Friday night’s festivities.  

Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Welcome to Oak Ridge High School Open House

Mrs. Janica discusses her Spanish 2 class with parents at last night's ORHS Open House.

I am jaded.

Jaded. I freely admit it. I have now been going to annual school Open House for 25 years now in South Montgomery County. Twenty five years, spanning five elementary schools, two middle schools, four junior high schools, and three high schools. You start out in kindergarten, with the tiny chairs and desks, listening to teachers talk about letters and writing your name and using manipulatives (still have no idea what that is).

Of course, a lot of those Open Houses took place in The Woodlands, where the classes were full of anxious parents who wanted to make sure their public school-educated young child was getting the best educational experience possible. It seems that five-year old Johnny can not only read already, but this summer he submitted an article for publication in The Atlantic after he returned from a six-week camp for young engineers. Mom wants to know when he can be accepted into the GT program, while Johnny is sitting quietly in the corner examining his finger for what he just pulled out of his nose.

I always marveled at the parents who felt like Open House was the perfect opportunity to not only meet the teacher, but to also expound upon the wonders of their own children, and question whether the early-year assignments were really challenging the kids in the first two weeks of school.

I never did this. I was always content to sit quietly in the back, sizing up the teacher for how he or she might respond to the many moments when one of my sons would do something to make their dad really proud. Would the teacher be stern and tell me, “We take discipline seriously here…” or would she light up and say, “Oh, I just love him – he’s so full of personality!” When the bell would ring, I’d simply walk out, smile, maybe mouth a thank you, knowing that it would be all too soon before I’d be called in for a parent-teacher conference.

I didn’t go to last year’s Open House at ORHS – I don’t recall why – I just didn’t go. I was supposed to be out of town yesterday, but life intervened, and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to meet my son’s teachers. I would go, and sit in the back, as inconspicuous as I could be (while, you know, taking a few pics for the website). I went this year with no preconceived notions – I had not yet been told who was the mean teacher and who was the nice one.

I had received about 19 audio messages about Open House via e-mail over the past week, so I knew it started a little after 7:00, and that  I could pick up my son’s schedule between 6:30 and 7:00. I figured if I get there at 6:45 I’d be golden. He’s a running diary from last night’s festivities:

Robinson Road construction still affecting traffic at 7:00 pm.

6:45 pm – OK, I’m already running a little late, but I’m cruising down Hanna behind three or four other people doing 40 mph, vigilantly watching for police. Looks like there is traffic ahead. Really? This many people going to Open House? Nope. Looks like a combination of Open House and the Robinson Road detour traffic. We are at a dead stop blocks from Robinson Road. Joy.

6:59 pm – Finally made it through traffic, and rolled through the stop sign at Harlan right in front of two Shenandoah police cars. Smart move. Keep looking in the side view mirror to see if one of them is turning around. Maybe the traffic was too much for them. I’m good. The east school parking lot appears full with a line of cars waiting to get in. I’ll just park on the road. On the way into the school I see 20 parking spaces I could have had.

7:03 pm – Inside the school, I head over to the A-B line to get my son’s schedule. The guy there points me to the C-F line, and sure enough, that’s where the schedules of the kids with a last name beginning with “B” are. I pick up the school floor plan, and armed with the schedule and floor plan, I set off ready to go. Except I have no idea where to go. I am inexplicably looking for a “You Are Here” designation on the floor plan, and I cannot figure out in which direction to head. Fortunately for me, there are Air Force Junior ROTC kids in uniform sprinkled throughout the crowd. One of them sees the obvious confusion on my face, comes over and asks if I need directions. A high school kid proactively helping out a perplexed adult. Wow.

Mrs. Neman explaining the difference between Honors and AP classes.

7:09 pm – I’m in Mrs. Neman’s Honors English class. She’s already explaining what the class is all about. I must be late. Nope. Apparently these parents we’re either more well-prepared or more well-versed in the layout of ORHS. The bell rings to signal the start of Open House. There are eight parents in this class. One starts asking about AP English classes for dual-credit. I double-check to make sure I am not in The Woodlands High School.  No moms here in full makeup, just back from the hairdresser, ready to show off their newly-whitened teeth and fresh fall fashions. Nope. I am in Oak Ridge, where people to come Open House not so much as a social event, but rather to hear what teachers have to say.

About the dual credit thing: I know a number of kids that took a lot of dual credit classes in high school. Some of them are now making a fine living as part-time waiters at Cafe Adobe, after discovering alcohol and weed in their first couple of semesters in college. Not saying it will happen to your kid (of course it won’t). I’m just sayin’. I know that doing well in AP classes improves your GPA, and I know that AP classes help in getting to the school of your choice. But I see way too many people plotting out their kids’ lives in not only high school, but in junior high and earlier.

This is the first time my son has taken an honors course. I didn’t push him to do it; he came home and announced he was going to take an honors course on his own. I am just happy to see that Mrs. Neman has a bonus list of assignments kids can do for extra credit.

Mr. Hoffman is "the cool teacher".

7:21 pm – I am desperately searching for room PA. It is nowhere to be found on my ORHS floor plan. I seek out one of the AFJROTC kids. He looks at the school map, turns it over, and points out that PA is the first portable building on the east side of the school. Parents and teachers of the AFJROTC students: you should be really proud of these kids. Every one of them I ran into was friendly, helpful, and articulate. I always hoped that one of my sons would show interest in the ROTC program, but alas, it was not to be.

7:23 pm – Law Enforcement with Mr. Hoffman. I am two minutes late. He jokingly threatens to charge me with a tardy. Law Enforcement wasn’t offered when I was going to school – the only “vocational” electives were Home Economics (for girls) and Shop (for guys). There are only three parents in here, perhaps because no one else could find the class. In any event, Mr. Hoffman indicates that he is “the cool teacher”.  I am hoping that’s good and that my son does well in his class. I am thinking I won’t hear of any hi-jinks because they’ll be taken care of in class. He’s an ex-police officer, after all.

7:32 pm – Back into the school for U.S. History Honors with Ms. Goddard. It’s pretty warm in here. I don’t know if it’s always that way or if it’s because I am sweating navigating the throngs of people between classes. How you can go from a class on one side of this school to another on the other side in six minutes is beyond me. And I don’t have to stop at a locker along the way. Maybe I am just not young and spry anymore. And there are lots of kids here. Not just high school kids, but also younger brothers and sisters. My kids would never dare accompany me to Open House. Too much of a chance that I would embarrass them. I know this: these desks were not made for people of my size. There are six parents in here. Ms. Goddard finishes her spiel and asks if there are any questions. Dead silence.

7:43 pm – On to Spanish 2 with Mrs. Janica. I walk in and the conversation has already been going for a while. A whopping 11 parents are in here. Mrs. Janica seems like a no-nonsense teacher with that old-school teacher handwriting on the chalkboard. She has a limited number of physical textbooks and suggests that our kids reserve one, rather than having to access the text online. Really? An online textbook? She prefers to read the physical book, however, and I tend to agree with her. Our kids, however, are really comfortable with online tools, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my son forgoes the heavy textbook (that he will likely lose somewhere in his room) for the online version. I learn the single most valuable tidbit of information of the evening from Mrs. Janica: 60% of any language is made up of about 50 words.

Coach McDonald stares me down.

7:54 pm – Down to Geometry with Ms. Poliak. Apparently, Coach McDonald is also in this class to help out with students who need a little more assistance in geometry. This is a great idea. Though I have not had much of a need through the course of my lifetime to compute the area of a circle, it is one of those things I learned only long enough to pass a test. If I had had someone in class every day to help out in geometry and trigonometry, I would have done much better. Coach McDonald glares at me, though, as I take pictures along with notes. Coach McDonald will not tolerate any hi-jinks, I can tell. Looks like a case of good-cop, bad-cop in this class.

Ms. Poliak introduces us to Remind 101, a technology that Conroe ISD is using  to allow teachers to send you text messages about important events, like tests and major assignments, going on in their class. You can sign up for this, along with a Class Zone account to check on assignments and grades, from the Oak Ridge High School website.

8:05 pm – Math Models with Coach Compton and Coach Hunt – another two teachers assigned to a math class to ensure that kids take math retain the concepts and can pass the standardized test at year’s end. In 2011, ORHS kids had the following percentages of students pass the various TAKS tests:

Subject ORHS CISD
Social Studies 97.7% 98.2%
Reading 95.4% 94.1%
Science 88.1% 90.4%
Mathematics 83.7% 90.4%
All Tests 79.2% 85.1%

Obviously, math seems to be Oak Ridge’s Achilles Heel. So I am guessing that the extra teachers are there to help bring up those numbers. Look, I understand the problems with standardized tests, but they are in place and will be for the foreseeable future. Further, teachers and administrators are judged by these numbers, just as colleges and universities judge our kids on their SAT scores. So if it means that ORHS places two teachers in certain math classes to ensure our kids get a better grasp on math, I am all for it.

A good number of PCs still need to be repaired.

8:16 pm – On to the IT class, Principles of Information Technology, taught by Mrs. McClure. I am thinking this should be my son’s easiest class. I am immediately dismayed by the six PCs that are marked out of order, however. Kids learn to do work on a computer by doing, not by sharing a PC with someone else. We are two weeks into school, and many of these PCs were identified as broken a month ago. CISD needs to do better here. I’m also a bit concerned that they start out with keyboarding, while my son has been typing like 60 wpm (he says 100) since he learned to do so in third or fourth grade keyboarding class. But now I am sounding like Little Johnny’s parents, so I’ll back off of that. Son, you better come home with an A in this class. Raise that GPA!

Mrs. McClure teaches kids how to use the Microsoft Office suite and other commonly-used applications.

8:27 pm – The last class, Physics with Ms. Mayfield. Here’s the thing about young teachers – they really seem to be excited about what they are doing. Not that older teachers aren’t thrilled to be there, but those teachers a few years out of college don’t seem to be worn down by the demanding parents, standardized testing pressures, and sometimes obnoxious kids that would rather be anywhere else. Ms. Mayfield and Ms. Poliak (Geometry, above) are both probably younger than a couple of my sons. Remember, I have been coming to Open House for 25 years. They exude enthusiasm. This has to be a good thing for our kids. Ms. Mayfield says she is available for tutorials on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, and could also tutor students before school starts each morning, if necessary. She has tutored kids during a high school football game! How blessed are we to have these sorts of dedicated folks teaching our sons and daughters?

That’s just a quick summary of my Open House experience. If your school’s Open House has yet to be held, be sure to attend. Get signed up for Class Zone and Remind 101, and gently nudge your son or daughter when they need it. Send a friendly e-mail to the teachers when necessary (every day is unnecessary). Get involved with the PTO or PTA in your school, or just join and help fund their activities. We have a lot of wonderful people at our Oak Ridge area schools helping to shape our kids’ lives – get to know them.

I am a little less jaded than I was yesterday.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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