BY KENT MILLER
Published on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 20:12
For many high school marching bands, earning a trip to the UIL state contest in San Antonio would be cause for celebration – and rightfully so with hundreds of marching ensembles across the state vying for one of only 28 coveted spots.
Making it even more cause for celebration is the fact that the UIL alternates eligibility for the state contest – meaning that bands only get the chance to compete for the highest prize every other year with Classes 1A, 2A and 4A grouped together and likewise Classes 3A and 5A.
But for the Poteet High School Pirate Band, advancing to the state level has become a tradition of excellence. And with the band being disqualified in 2011 – many say unfairly – because of a simple clerical mistake made concerning the eligibility of a non-marching student, Saturday’s area round of competition was about more than continuing that tradition. It was also a chance for redemption.
Well consider them redeemed and the tradition continued after the Poteet band earned its 12th trip to state competition since 1990 following a rain-shortened competition at Memorial Stadium. Poteet will join Sherman, Wylie, Forney and Waxahachie at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Tuesday.
“This band was motivated and inspired by the tragic end to our season in 2011, making them stronger and more driven than any group I have ever seen,” said Cody Newman, director of bands for Poteet. “When the news finally arrived on Saturday night that the Pirate Band was headed once again to San Antonio, elation would be the only word that would describe their reaction."
But while some marching bands are simply happy to be invited to the big dance, Poteet’s tradition includes some lofty accomplishments. The band has three state championships to its resume – including back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2007. Poteet also brought home the top prize in 1997 and was first runner-up in 2001.
Dr. Linda Henrie, MISD superintendent, expressed her pride in the accomplishments of the band.
“Being selected to compete in the state marching contest is affirmation that others recognize the excellence of the Poteet Pirate Band,” Henrie said. “It is a privilege for a band to be selected to participate at this level and I look forward to cheering for them from the stands at the Alamodome.”
Poteet’s journey back to the state contest began over the summer when students began assembling for practices in the school parking lot under the hot August sun. It was in those dog days of summer that the seeds of success were planted and the crops began to be harvested on Oct. 5 at the Mesquite Marching Festival at Memorial Stadium where the band received superior ratings fro every judge. The success continued the following Saturday at the Unleash the Sound Marching Festival in Aledo where Poteet garnered Outstanding Drum Majors honors and was named Best Band in Class 4A.
“This is a really driven group,” Newman said. “They are excited to get the chance to go compete, but even more excited knowing they have not peaked yet with this show. There is plenty to improve on and they are determined to make those improvements before they arrive at the Alamodome.”
UIL competition began on Oct. 16 at Memorial Stadium with the Region 3 contest. Superior ratings there earned the band a trip to Saturday’s area competition. Twenty-five of the best marching bands in Northeast Texas were vying for one of five spots in San Antonio.
Newman was in his first year as the director of bands in 2011. He was a student teacher at Poteet under former director Scott Coulson when the band won its second state championship, went to the Plano ISD for a year and returned in time to be a part of the second of the back-to-back titles in 2007 as an associate director. But having the chance to lead the unit to the highest level of success for the first time as the director of bands is understandably special for him, even though he is quick to spread the credit.
“It’s a great feeling,” Newman said. “I am just so proud of the students and my fantastic staff who work very hard every day.”
But while reaching the state competition is indeed a proud achievement, many of the current seniors who were part of the 2011 disappointment would say that Newman’s biggest accomplishment came two years ago in the face of the adversity surrounding the disqualification.
Amanda Shotts was a sophomore then and called Newman “a father figure” because of the way he was able to provide what she called a valuable life lesson to the teenagers in the band.
“He didn’t have to say anything [to the UIL] but his integrity taught us all something,” said Shotts, now a graduating senior and one of the band’s drum majors.
They will likely have plenty of parents and other fans on hand to cheer them on in San Antonio but for those fans not able to make the drive to the Alamo City, the band will showcase its talents in a special performance at 4 p.m. on Sunday at E.H. Hanby Stadium. Admission is free.
The preliminary competition in San Antonio begins at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday with Poteet scheduled to perform at about 1 p.m. Ten bands will be selected for the finals, which begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $17 for adults for each session. Parking at the Alamodome is $10.
The past 11 appearances by Poteet have produced the following results: 1990, 10th place; 1991, 10th; 1993, third; 1995, fourth; 1997, champions; 1999, tied for fourth; 2001, second; 2003, 11th; 2005, champions; 2007, champions; and 2009, third.