When a Franklin Community High School senior decided to jump out of a plane earlier this fall, he had one thing on his mind: school spirit.
Tumbling out of a plane over Frankfort with nothing but a parachute to save him, Chase Stanger, student leader for the Blue Crew student section, was wearing a “Zone 8” t-shirt, a reference to the central Indiana student section competition put together by sports anchor Anthony Calhoun of WISH-TV.
Franklin edged the other finalist Cathedral High School and became the first school to win the Zone banner twice, Calhoun said in a Twitter video, which showed him pumping up a crowd of students in the high school’s auditorium.
The Zone Championship Banner is given each year to the student section that goes above and beyond to support its school’s athletic teams. For Franklin, that included skydiving, videos and painstaking efforts to travel to road football games as far as Terre Haute, Stanger said.
“We had an away game at Terre Haute for the first round of sectionals. We were originally told ‘no’ to a fan bus, but the Blue Crew pulled together and got enough people to petition for a bus to go to the game,” Stanger said. “About 50 people were on the bus and 30 drove separately. We won the game by a blocked field goal and in the video you can hear how loud we were. To have that presence at such a large school shows how committed we are.”
Athletes can feel the energy of the student section during the games, said Bill Doty, athletic director.
“The electricity in the air and the environment gets them pumped for sure,” he said. “When they have a big crowd behind them they want to perform well. During the school day, when kids are engaged in extracurricular activities, it makes things fun. It has a good impact on the school all around.”
The Zone Banner campaign included multimedia efforts. Stanger and his section mates put together a video featuring Colts Head Coach Jeff Saturday via the Cameo website, the skydiving video, a scavenger hunt that took students to each of the other banner finalists and another featuring Franklin students and community members, including AJ Rice, the student leader from 2016, the last time Franklin won the Zone banner.
Stanger decided to go on his high-flying expedition with Skydive Indianapolis to show how serious the Blue Crew was about winning the banner, he said.
“Every single week I took it upon myself to debate ideas I could do. If we were going to be the frontrunner for the banner, something had to be done to put us above and beyond anyone else. I got the idea to go skydiving or get a tattoo of (Calhoun’s initials) on me, but I wanted something less permanent,” Stanger said.
Rice, the previous student winner, said when Franklin won the banner in 2016, students did the mannequin challenge, for which they had to stand or sit frozen in a certain positions while “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd played in the background. Rice said Stanger reached out to him via social media for advice on how to win a second banner for the school.
“When I saw Chase jump out of a plane, I said ‘no way they don’t win the banner,’” he said. “When you have kids jumping out of airplanes, that’s the height they’re willing to go to, no pun intended, to show they have the most support for their student section and the community. As an alum, I think it’s definitely cool to see the banner brought back to Franklin, and when Chase reached out to me, I put myself in his shoes and remembered how much It meant to me in high school and being part of something bigger for the community.”
Stanger said he and his fellow students were watching the TV broadcast when they found out they won the competition.
“I think the recognition shows we’re a school that cares about the sports program,” Stanger said. “In the past, there was some debate based on attendance at games, but this year we put ourselves among the best of the schools for school spirit. We’re the first two-time winner, and that says a lot.”