A full parking lot. Music blaring from loudspeakers at intermission periods. Cheers rivaling the loudest at Del Norte High School games.
Thunen Gymnasium wasn't rocking for the Warriors on Wednesday night, but for the Warriors in training. Seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball teams from Crescent Elk Middle School and Redwood Elementary School squared off before a house divided.
"We've got some rabid fans on both sides," said Krystol Berry, wife of Raiders seventh-grade coach Matt Berry and mother of Redwood seventh-grader Steven. "I don't know if it's actually come to blows, but we've had some heated cheers."
The lines of Red versus Green, as in all rivalries worth their salt, occasionally blurred. Newly crowned Warrior Superfan Tim Nuszkiewicz was in attendance, rooting for the Redwood eighth-grade team coached by his brother, John. The two graduated, Tim Nuszkiewicz noted with a laugh, from Crescent Elk.
Parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters supported their family members. Current Del Norte High students were not too cool to root for their old school. Sophomores Marcus and Adrian Henderson, Crescent Elk alumni, were on hand to watch their brother, seventh-grader Jaydin, play for the Cougars. The game play evoked memories of basketball games past. "I just liked getting the pizza afterward," Adrian Henderson admitted.
The girls weren't left out of the excitement, as cheerleading squads fired up the crowds with their displays of acrobatics and school spirit.
"I like the tournaments and games, how a lot of people come out to watch us," said Taylor Barrington, a Redwood eighth-grader and Raiders cheerleader.
Ultimately, the "Civil War" was won by Crescent Elk. The Cougars won 34-28 in the seventh-grade game and 44-17 in the eighth-grade game, holding double-digit halftime leads in both contests.
Disappointed as the Redwood contingent was, there were no hard feelings in the end. After all, many of these boys have been and will be teammates, perhaps at Del Norte High.
"They're my friends, so they're cool," said Crescent Elk seventh-grader Mason Mitchell. "I just don't want to lose to them."
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com.