EVERETT — At 6 a.m. every Monday through Thursday for the past three weeks, the sound of 11 football players rhythmically counting to music reverberated through the Everett High School gymnasium.
Hint: They weren’t practicing snap counts.
Rather, they were laboriously preparing for a dual routine with the EHS cheerleaders that was scheduled to be unveiled to the student body at the Seagulls’ homecoming assembly Friday afternoon.
It’s not your typical cheer-football collaboration. Over the three weeks, the football players received an in-depth introduction to the intricacies and physical requirements of cheerleading.
It was was eye-opening experience for the 11 newbies.
“You’ll see these routines and the guys are mocking the cheerleaders, they’ll come out in skirts and put wigs on while being funny and silly. That wasn’t really my vision for what I wanted it to be,” said Carrie Anderson, the Everett High School cheer coach. “I really wanted it to showcase what cheer can be.”
The performance opens with a synchronized dance, with the football players and cheerleaders separated into groups. Eventually the groups meld as the performance evolves into stunts.
“We know who we are, we know what people think we are, we’re going to make fun of that, and then we’re going to show you what we can really do by the end,” Anderson said.
The idea of a routine combining cheerleaders and football players had been floating around casually at sleepovers and in group text chats for years, but a group of Everett senior cheerleaders — Lily Lamoureux, Karla Molina, Lexi Lightner and Katie Meas — pitched it more persistently to their first-year coach, Anderson. Anderson agreed and developed a routine while Molina and Lightner, the team’s captains, drummed up interest with the football team.
Those involved said they hope their efforts foster a tradition of collaboration at Everett High School, not just between the football and cheer squads, but throughout the school.
“I feel like it’s really important for cheer and football to come together and encourage other teams,” Molina said.
Developing the routine hasn’t been a cakewalk. Each practice — including a six-hour session the Saturday before the performance — included an attention to detail that surprised some of the football players.
“Even putting on a routine of this length, I don’t think people understand what goes into making it perfect,” Anderson said. “Once we started adding in the music, chopping it up and doing this part, this part and this part, the boys asked me how long the routine was. ‘Like 10, 15 minutes?’
“And I told them, ‘No, it’s almost three. And they were like, ‘We’re doing all of this for three minutes? We spent all this time for just three minutes?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, there’s that much work that goes into that long of a routine.’”
Said Everett senior quarterback Ethan Ollis: “I definitely respect it more because I didn’t think it would be this hard. I thought it would be kind of easy, but now that I’ve done it myself, it’s harder than what you think. Not everyone can do it.”
As with most new sports, some pick up it up faster than others. According to the four senior cheerleaders, senior wide receiver/defensive lineman Flavio Fonseca-Rubio possesses the best rhythm, and senior tight end/defensive lineman Lester Howard is the most talented lifter among the football players.
Ollis and senior wide receiver Andrew Olsen expressed appreciation to Anderson for her patience in teaching them the needed stunts and dance moves.
The entire football group was a welcome addition, Anderson said, because it presented her with more options in creating a routine.
“We didn’t want to go out there and perform something that we could do on our own,” Anderson said. “The benefit of having football players is that they’re so strong, their technique can (be lacking) and they can still get something up there.
“Now if they can learn the technique and have the strength, then there are some amazing things that we can accomplish.”
Amazing things could be on the horizon.
Everett cheer has not participated on the competition circuit for years — since before the current senior class entered as freshmen — but will enter competition this winter. The squad could be augmented in the winter, as a handful of the football players have expressed interest in joining the team.
“I think they have a different respect for us and now that they have that respect, they want to be a part of our team,” Lamoureux said.
Regardless of what happens afterward, the hours of preparation subsequently drew the two teams closer and enriched a mutual respect between the members.
“There’s this cheer stereotype that we didn’t do a lot and I’m sure the football players didn’t know what we did because they are at their own practices,” Lightner said. “I think it’s really helped them understand what we do.”