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Pioneers Embracing Community And Tradition
11-3-17 by Jordan R. King
The Stillwater football players were excited.

They had beaten Mustang High School 31-14.

After the handshake line, some players wanted to celebrate; some were ready to speak to media members. Coach Tucker Barnard corralled his players and made sure they didn't forget one tradition.

He pointed to the southwest corner of Pioneer Stadium where the band waited.

"Everybody over," Barnard said.

The players jogged over and the band started to play the fight song, "Pioneers Bronze and Blue."

It is a scene someone will see if he or she attends a Pioneers game, the players, band, students and fans joining for the song.

Junior linebacker Winston Watkins said he observed it before he was on the team.

"When my brother came through and graduated in 2014, they were singing [the song]," Watkins said. "So I guess it's tradition."

Barnard said he wants the team to realize people are taking time out of their days to support the team.

He said it is a way for the team to try to give back.

"It's really a way to say thank you to our fans, to the student body, to the band," Barnard said. "They come out and cheer for us and try to create a great environment for us to play in."
Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Gundy said many people support the football team on the field and off.

He agreed participating in the fight song is something the fans deserve.
"From the fans to the band to even the janitors at the school, there's a lot of school spirit here in Stillwater," Gundy said. "A lot of people show up to the games.
"I think that's very important for our morale, knowing you have your talent and your people behind you."

For most players, it is more than a team affair.

Watkins said though he always appreciates friends and family who come down from the stands for the song, he said he likes it more if the team is successful.

"Especially after a win you have fun singing it," Watkins said.
Barnard said it doesn't matter whether the team wins; he wants his players to appreciate the support they receive.

"Win or lose; I hope we don't ever lose, but when we do, we'll still go over there and do that," Barnard said. "It's just saying thanks.

"It's just a way of showing we appreciate them."

Senior offensive lineman Jake Gray said he thinks the fan support is great and means a lot to the team. He said sometimes he turns around and is shocked at the large crowds the team gets, such as the one for the Mustang game.

Although Barnard said the team does not keep track of attendance numbers, about 2/3 of the 4,000-capacity home section was filled. Gray said he thinks the attendance has been higher this season.

Gundy said it is part of a bigger picture. He said he thinks it is about school spirit and performing for Stillwater.

"We're playing for our school, not ourselves," Gundy said. "We represent our school, so I think that's very important to go over and cheer with the band, [and] sing our song to show [our school spirit]."

Gundy said when he remembers he is representing the school, it makes him work harder and take his preparation more seriously.

He said showing Stillwater is a good program is his goal each week.

"[I want to] make teams scared of Stillwater or think we can do really good," Gundy said. "In the past, Stillwater has not been known for winning very many playoff games.

"I think playing good for our school and our city is very important."

Gundy said he hopes when he goes to celebrate with the band, younger kids see the success and will want to believe they can continue it.

Senior offensive lineman Stone Mesa said he thinks it helps bond the team after a win or loss because it can become closer.

"We're nothing without each other, so we got to congratulate each other," Mesa said.

Like Gundy, Mesa said it reminds him the team is a part of the school; it is not only a team that plays football Friday nights.

Mesa said he would do it even if the team wasn't made to because it is tradition to him.

The fight song also reminds some of the players the main purpose they are at Stillwater.

Gundy said Barnard stresses the student part of student-athlete. He said it is something he is appreciative of because he said some players hope to play in college, and academics are essential.

"It's important because if football doesn't work out, we have those grades to fall back on," Gundy said.

Gray said the staff encourages the players to succeed in the classroom. He said the coaches tell them their work in the classroom comes before their work on the field; they cannot play for something such as failing a class.

Barnard said the school-first mentality and the traditions have a purpose; his staff tries to do more than make good football players.

"We hope we're producing good citizens, and I think we are," Barnard said. "We got a good group of kids.

"The type of people that we are in the hallways, there in the building, that sets a tone a lot of times for whether people want to cheer for you or not. We want to be good people; we want to walk down the hall with a smile on our face."

Barnard said he doesn't think his players want to be seen as being like the jock stereotype seen in movies and on TV.

Although the fight song with the band might be the most visible game-day tradition the Pioneers have, there are several others that have impacted players.

Watkins said "Riff Ram Bah Zoo" is his favorite; it is a song the team runs out onto the field to.

"In a tunnel before a game, when we're all right there, and we're getting shaking back and forth, and we're starting out slow with the Riff Ram, it's awesome," Watkins said. "That gets me so hyped."

Mesa said he likes getting excited for games with the song, but he said there is something else he has to do if he wants to step on the field.

"If we're home, slap the sign," Mesa said. "You cannot play without slapping that sign."

Mesa said it was a tradition before he was part of the program. It is a sign that hangs above the exit of the locker room that says, "Go Pioneers."