When the Red Mountain football team prepares to take the field, the players gather in a hype huddle just like most teams.
They sway back and forth, begin yelling and pumping each other up, and get the blood flowing before ripping through the paper sign made by the cheerleaders, who have made a tunnel pathway to the field.
It’s a common sight every Friday night throughout Arizona and other states, but what happens just before the hype and emotion takes over is not as widespread.
The Mountain Lions stand at the back of the end zone, shoulder to shoulder, brother next to brother and take in the National Anthem as a team.
It was instituted by first-year coach Mike Peterson when the season began in August but has taken on more significance after the NFL and President Donald Trump took issue with each other over the weekend.
Players locked arms along with coaches and owners, kneeled during the playing of the symbolic song, stayed in locker rooms and/or stood alone in some cases.
Peterson’s decision to have the players on the field had nothing to do with what is going on at stadiums on Sundays.
“That is something I instituted, but first and foremost remember John Wrenn’s Hamilton Huskies doing it and thought it was very classy and the young men are not sitting in the locker room waiting and waiting and waiting,” Peterson said. “I had forgotten about the kneeling and did not even think it would trickle to us, until all the madness this past weekend. And it did not even cross my mind, when we started doing it.”
Most high school teams are in the locker room when the National Anthem is played, and the Mesa School District does not have a policy, as the players get mentally prepared with headphones blasting music in their ears or they are broken off in position groups to get last-minute instructions.
Just like the NFL, each locker room at the high school level is different and every coach has their own approach.
“As a high school head coach, we are not on TV to display our grievances,” Mesa coach Kap Sikahema said. “Therefore, our media power is relatively irrelevant. However, I will speak to my players about my expectations regarding the National Anthem and the flag. I expect my players to stand or they aren’t playing.”
Peterson will continue to go about the pregame the same way with an open mind.
“No one has knelt, that I know off,” he said. “I am looking at the flag with my hand over my heart like I feel I should. However, if someone wanted to kneel, I would not take that away from them, if that is what their conscience dictates.”
The situation will most likely continue to grow in the weeks to come at the NFL level and will probably continue to trickle to sports at all different levels.
“I believe that athletes should maintain the purity and integrity of the sport and to respect the game as it should be,” Sikahema said. “And I think we have disrespected and tarnished the game to a certain extent.”
Desert Ridge (4-1)
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Lucas Wright has 13 carries for 197 yards with two scores in helping the Jaguars to 495 yards rushing against Desert Mountain. … The rushing total (495) was the sixth most in school history, falling 69 yards short of the record (564) set in 2014 against Sandra Day O’Connor. … The Tigers are coming a 41-28 loss to Red Mountain. … Senior linebacker Ty Miller has recorded two tackles for a loss, five quarterback losses and one sack in two games since returning from an injury that caused him to miss the first three games.
Last week: W, 63-27 Desert Mountain. This week: at Gilbert (3-2). History (back to 2004): 7-2, won seven in a row. Last five: 4-1.
Offensive tackle Marco Salas received an offer to have preferred walk-on status at Cal. … The Mustangs’ single-rushing record since 2004 in 456, which was set in 2005 in a win over Yuma. … Dobson has only passed for more than 300 yards – 345 against Mountain View last year – once since 2004.
Last week: L, 42-0 Desert Vista. This week: at Red Mountain (3-2). History (back to 2004): 0-7. Last five: 3-2.
Senior running back Kris Jackson received a player of the week medallion from the Grand Canyon State Gridiron Club. It means he will receive an invite to the banquet at the end of the banquet where the Ed Doherty Award, given to the state’s top player, will be announced. … Junior safety Ed McClendon has four interceptions, six passes defensed, one fumble recovery and one fumbled caused. … Mesa’s record since 2004 is 66-83.
Last week: W, 31-29. This week: at Westwood (3-3, 0-1). History (back to 2004): 9-4, won two in a row. Last week: 2-3.
Mountain View (3-2)
The Toros have three separate win streaks of at 12 games, including 40 straight that ended in 1998. … Senior outside linebacker Alex Talamantes has six tackles for a loss over the last two games. … Junior Jeremiah Hollen has five rushing touchdowns on just nine attempts. … The most yards rushing for the Toros in a single game since 2004 is 521 yards, which came against Casa Grande in 2006.
Last week: W, 42-14. This week: at Skyline (3-3, 0-1). History (back to 2004): 6-2, lost wo in a row. Last five: 3-2.
Red Mountain (3-2)
After entering last week’s game with one interception, the Mountain Lions picked off Gilbert quarterback Jack Plummer four times after the Purdue commit came into the game with no picks. … Senior cornerback Gerald Wilbon, who had two interceptions including a 102-yarder to seal the win, was given a player of the week medallion by Grand Canyon State Gridiron Club and will be invited to the banquet at the end of the year to select the Ed Doherty Award given to the state’s best player. … Senior linebacker Delton Jackson blocked a punt.
Last week: W, 41-28 at Gilbert. This week: Dobson (3-2). History (back to 2004): 0-7. Last five: 3-2.
Skyline (3-3, 1-1)
After averaging 62.7 yards rushing through three games, Aaron Wood has averaged 183.0 over the last three games, including 301 last week. … The Coyotes are 75-76-1 since 2004. … Over that time, the Coyotes have only passed for more than 300 yards twice, but have rushed for more than 300 24 times. … Skyline has completed only 36 passes on the season, but when they connect it is for big yards as the Coyotes average 19.7 yards a reception.
Last week: L, 27-17 at Hamilton. This week: Mountain View (3-2). History (back to 2004): 2-6, won two straight. Last five: 2-3.
Westwood (3-3. 0-1)
Manny Collier, who averages 10.0 per carry on 23 attempts, is banged up but expected to play this week. … Quarterback Carter Layton has his best game of the year with a season-best in completion percentage (57 percent), passing yards (225) and tied for touchdowns (2). … Senior safety Mitchale Bonitatibus leads the team in tackles (6.2 per game) and has three interceptions.
Last week: W, 28-14 at Tolleson. This week: Mesa (2-4). History (back to 2004): 4-9, lost two in a row. Last five: 3-2.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.