DURHAM, NH – As Kyle Miller (‘20), drains a three from the corner, the home crowd erupts. Shouts of “it’s Miller time,” can be heard from the cheering crowd. After winning the ball back, the stands, packed full with fans, goes crazy.
“OYSTER RIVER,” screams Ty Mountain (‘20), followed by five claps. The entire crowd joins in as the Bobcats move the ball up the court. “OYSTER RIVER,” echoes through the stands, as the Bobcats start moving the ball around.
At every home game, throughout the year, this is a common sight. No matter the sport, you can expect dozens of Oyster River fans to turn out in full force.
While Oyster River fans have always been passionate, the recent resurrection of the Oyster River fanbase began during the 2017-18 school year. It was jump-started by Oyster River’s boys varsity basketball team’s run to the semifinals of the Division II playoffs, after years of losing records.
“Those playoff basketball games during our sophomore year were super fun and it kind of inspired me to get as many people as possible to show up and support our sports teams,” said Mountain, a member of Oyster River Student Athletes Leadership Team (SALT), a student led organization aimed at improving the school community and culture through athletics.
In the years since that playoff run, SALT’s mission has been achieved, as more and more students have been going to home games, getting loud and rowdy to show their support.
When Andy Lathrop took over as athletic director for the Oyster River Cooperative School District three years ago, he made it one of his goals to improve the school climate around supporting sports teams, especially at home.
“During my first year, we started the SALT team, and one of the main focuses was around school spirit and creating more of a positive presence at our home games, and I think we achieved that,” said Lathrop.
That fan support and involvement played a major role in Oyster River receiving the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Sportsmanship Award. The award is given based on a combination of excellence in school climate, coach and player attitudes, alongside spectator attitudes.
Oyster River fans pride themselves on being loud and rowdy, but also building an incredibly close knit community centered around games.
Players from a host of different sports will show up to show their support for the Bobcats. The front few rows of a basketball game is consistently made up of cross country runners, alongside hockey, soccer, and baseball players.
“I know that I love it when fans come to our games, so I want to give that support back to other teams,” said Jesse Gushee (‘20), a starter on the boys varsity soccer team.
“It’s amazing to be a part of such a devoted group,” said Jacob Fradillada (‘20), a member of the baseball and golf teams. “We show up to every game, and show our support. I think it’s a pretty special thing to walk into our gym and see so many rows filled with fans.”
Fradillada’s teammate, Jack Dalton (‘20) had a similar sentiment. “I love being at the games, and watching the school community come together, and getting a win for the Bobcats,” he said.
Ben Robar (‘21), who along with Mountain, has been one of main students behind the increase in fan turnout, finds the energy of the crowd one of his favorite aspects of the games. “I love getting everyone riled up, and getting ecstatic with the crowd,” he said.
That high turnout and energy can play a huge role in a player and team’s performance. “Superfans are amazing, especially in a basketball game, where the fans are so close to the players. It really helps and it really means a lot when we have fans that are that supportive, that loud, and that encouraging on the floor. They are quite literally the sixth man,” said Miller.
Basketball games have a tradition of fan interaction with the players. In a game where the action is so close to the fans, it inspires the crowd to get loud and rowdy.
“People want to go be loud and chirp opposing players,”said Jacob Fradillada (‘20).
“When fans can get as rowdy as our fans do, it’s night and day,” Miller continued.
Emma Hampton (‘23), a player on the girls varsity volleyball team, found the presence of such a dedicated fan base a bit alarming as she made the transition to high school volleyball. “Coming from the middle school, I wasn’t used to anybody coming to the games,” she said. “But as I got used to it, the energy [the fans] had definitely translated onto the court.”
Especially when the energy isn’t there for the Bobcats, the fans always have the ability to turn that around. Whether going up Route 4 to Coe-Brown, or packing the Dover Ice Arena, traveling Oyster River fans have been known to outnumber the home crowd. These fan performances have provided much needed boosts to the players and have inspired many a late game comeback or overtime win.
“You could hear our fans chirping number 37 throughout the game, and he ended up getting some penalties in the third period which was a huge momentum boost for us,” said Declan Daubney (‘20), captain of the boys varsity hockey team, explaining a comeback against Dover which saw the Bobcats score four unanswered goals in the final 15 minutes to win 5-3. “We had more fans than Dover, in Dover, and when we started to get some momentum they added to it,” he concluded.
Over time, while the number of students showing up to games has ebbed and flowed, the intensity of the fans has always been there.
“When I was a freshman I remember seeing so many upperclassmen show up and make noise,” said Fradillada. “People want to carry on that tradition.”
-Words by Luca Haines, Photos by Kaila Lambiasi