By Jeremy Schneider
He hasn’t coached one football game yet, but Maumee head coach Cam Coutcher is laying the foundation for a turnaround at Kazmaier Stadium.
A large part of that rebound from last year’s season is the fostering of respect and community among different parts of the student body, namely the football team, marching band, cheerleaders, and dance team.
Those four groups came together Friday night for the first ever Purple and Gold Preview Night, the brainchild of Coutcher and a product of Athletic Director Matt Szyndler.
“I went to (Szyndler) about doing something like this and bringing the community together, and he was right on top of it,” Coutcher said. “I just feel like everything is coming together. There’s a real community feel here tonight, so that’s really cool.”
The night started with a live scrimmage for the varsity football team, with a performance by the marching band, cheerleaders and dance team following. After that, the junior varsity and freshman football teams took the field for their own live scrimmage.
Parents, fans, and the community responded by nearly filling the home stands at the stadium. The Athletic Boosters were a big draw as well, supporting the event with a BBQ chicken dinner.
“It’s not about us, it’s not about (the teams) individually, it’s about our school and creating a positive identity,” Coutcher said. “It starts with the administration, with our A.D. coordinating everything, and it comes down to us, believing we can encourage each other.”
After last year’s 0-10 season, Coutcher was happy but not surprised to see the support in the stands. He knows the product on the field will determine if those seats remain full, but he’s hopeful that even in tough times, the community can rally around the team.
“Whether they support us midway through the season remains to be seen,” Coutcher said with a smile. “It’s really important to be optimistic. I’m excited, I hope they continue to come out and support us.”
In previous years, the marching band would have held its own preview night separate from the football team. But this year, the Maumee Marching Pride took the field at “halftime” of Friday’s event, between two 15-minute quarters for the football team.
“I thought, ‘Sure, let’s try it, let’s see how it goes,’” Maumee band director Eric Boswell said. “We’ll give anything a try, and I thought it went really well. It was nice to see the kids come together.”
The Marching Pride featured their game standards, such as the Maumee Alma Mater and the Star Spangled Banner. They also gave the crowd a peek of their halftime show, Encounters, which featured solos from senior trumpet player Nathan Thebeau; Coira Cook, a sophomore on flute, and freshman Evelynn Schneider on mellophone.
“We hoped that maybe by combining (the events), we can help kids to have more appreciation for each other’s identities and little mutual respect throughout the groups and a little more camaraderie, because Friday nights, cheer, football, and band, we’re hanging out every Friday night. I appreciate the reach-out from athletics; it’s a welcome extension to create good bonding.”
Maumee cheer coach Emily Ery echoed Boswell’s statements, saying her team loves supporting and performing with the four groups who came together Friday night. In fact, the cheer and dance teams share a few members.
“We love being apart of all events here at Maumee High School,” she said. “The girls were excited about the Purple and Gold Preview Night and being able to perform in front of the crowd. As always, the squad loves cheering on the boys and dancing to the band.”
“We have a good relationship between the four groups. We work together and try to make the night the best it could be. It is always good to support each other and to perform together. We feel it only elevates our performance as well as everyone else’s when we can do things together.”
This was more than a regular intrasquad scrimmage for Coutcher and the football team. On one hand, he was happy to let the kids have fun and show the people in the stands what they’ve been working on during the summer months.
But on the other hand, he knows there are kids still fighting for spots on the team, making Friday night more than just a fun walk in the park for them.
“I told our guys, ‘Some of you guys have something to prove and maybe you’re playing for a backup spot or we’re not sure what you can do, so you better go out and prove to us what you can do,’” Coutcher said. “At the same time, our goal was to put on a show and make sure no one got injured. I think we succeeded in a lot of ways.
“Every day is a day we can get better, not just football, but as a community.”