WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — When the Southeast Polk Rams collide with the Valley Tigers on Football Friday Primetime they’ll bring a combined seven state football titles to their Week 1 matchup. You’ll need an even bigger trophy case to display the titles between each team’s cheerleading squads. The elite matchup puts the pom-poms in primetime.
“I only get to do this for four years and it really means something to put on that uniform,” said senior co-captain Rowan Sandvig of Valley High School’s cheer team.
It’s the soundtrack to a fall Friday night.
“You just gotta be louder so they get louder and it just raises the whole atmosphere,” said Southeast Polk cheer team member and junior Ashlynn Marks.
The cheer teams are synchronized in step while wearing school colors with pride.
“Knowing all the women before me on the team that they are watching and they are proud of what we’ve been able to do,” Sandvig said.
For Valley High School and Southeast Polk High School, cheer is more than a sideline attraction it’s a main event. Southeast Polk Rams head cheer coach Marci Keesee says her secret is simple but often overlooked.
“Creating a fun atmosphere where they can be themselves and enjoy what they are doing I think has been a huge part of our success,” Keese said.
The tradition-rich Tigers at Valley have established themselves as a premier powerhouse and not just in the state. After their 11 state titles, a national title in 2019 sent waves throughout the country.
“This is the challenge and we are going to push you past what you are comfortable with sometimes because our goal is to win. It is to do our best at the state competition,” said Valley’s head cheer competition coach Beth Ferguson.
The Rams have a brand of their own with three state titles since 2019.
“We have high expectations. They have high expectations for themselves and it makes it easier to push that hard work ethic,” said Rams assistant coach Alyssa Handy.
The two cheering juggernauts won’t battle it out against each other on the field Friday but the chance to share a field Friday night serves as an inspiration.
Keesee said, “It’s just neat knowing you have two schools that understand the hard work that goes into what they do every week.”
The Ram and Tiger cheer squads have elevated their sport from the sideline to the frontline. Marks said, “It feels amazing. Definitely for the little girls looking up because it’s just like they want to be you so it just makes you want to be so much better for them.”
With every stomp…
“We get hurt and people fall down. The hard part is getting back up and hitting a stunt and just trying the new skills even when it is really scary,” said Senior Valley co-captain Emelia Martin.
“It’s definitely bittersweet too because it’s my last season,” said Ram senior Avery Dasch.
Martin said, “We are trying to get the third state championship but it’s not just about that third for us specifically but carrying on the legacy of now twelve (state titles) hopefully.”
Turning what others see as cheers into roars.
Dasch said, “I think we are all trying to get another state champion title. I know I am and I know a lot of the girls are in both football and cheerleading.”
Since Southeast Polk is the road team they will not travel their nationally recognized dance team the RythAMetteS who have won five national championships in dance.