Prep Football: Cougars usher in new prep season

The Christopher High quarterbacks gather for a chat during Midnight Madness Aug. 14 at the high school. 

GILROY—While other football players around the state snuggled up in their beds and dreamt of the first day of practice, the Cougars were strapping on their shoulder pads. Not a millisecond of practice time was wasted at Christopher High School. The instant the clock struck midnight on Aug. 14, ending the two-week mandatory “dead period,” the team was on the field to usher in the start of a new year for prep sports.
The event is known as Midnight Madness and it has grown exponentially since head coach Tim Pierleoni started it in 2009. It began on Christopher’s bumpy practice fields where portable lights were set-up to navigate the darkness and parents peppered the perimeters to watch.
Now, it’s an all-day event that begins with a team barbecue and team building activities before Pierleoni’s favorite part: the team charging onto the field in front of bleachers packed with fans.
“It’s grown into something that I didn’t really realize it would get this big,” the Cougar coach said. “It’s gotten into a big annual thing with the administration out talking to the kids. It’s a great way for us to kick off the season, it really is.”
Other teams are buying into Midnight Madness now too, Pierleoni said. The Cougars used to be the first and only ones to practice at midnight at the end of the “dead period” but teams in cities like Los Gatos started doing it this year as well.
“You know what they say ‘imitation is the best form of flattery.’ That makes me feel good, too,” Pierleoni said.
And it wasn’t just about the football team this year either. For the first time, the entire Christopher High cheer and dance team took the field and performed a special routine to help energize the crowd.
“For us, supporting our team is a big deal,” Cougar varsity dance captain Mia Ruiz said. “We love to support the boys. Having us out there with them is just great.”
The Cougars used the practice to honor the memory of 15-year-old Natalia Salcido, a Christopher High cheerleader who was killed in a car accident in May. They placed a megaphone inscribed with her name at the 50-yard-line during their performance, ensuring she was a part of the festivities.
The cheer and dance team was running on fumes, having started the day at 5:30 a.m. at a camp in Southern California. The Cougars didn’t arrive home until 9 p.m. and had to be on the field at 11 p.m., but still gave it their all.
“The adrenaline really hits us when we perform,” varsity cheer captain Viana Alexandre said. “It kind of wakes us up like ‘oh my goodness, we have to hit this hard.’”
It was the first Midnight Madness event for junior football players Ryan Adamkiewicz, who will back-up his brother Matt at quarterback this year, and Gilroy High transfer David Aguilar. The late night practice had no effect on their energy levels either and both said they were thrilled to be a part of the Cougars’ annual tradition.
“It’s a good opportunity to get better,” Aguilar said. “It’s good for the community and it bring us together as a family. They support us and then we do our thing out here on the field.”
It was just as exciting for senior Nate Fhurong. He said the event helps the team grow closer and now, he’s chomping at the bit for the season opener at 1:45 p.m. Sept. 5 at Sobrato in Morgan Hill.
Midnight Madness has developed into something beyond Pierleoni’s wildest dreams, but he said he believes it can be even better. His hope for the future is that all fall sports—water polo, cross country, field hockey, volleyball, girls tennis and girls golf—will participate in the event.
“When you play a team sport like this, it’s not so much the games and the victories, it’s those kind of memories that you build,” Pierleoni said. “I think that’s important, helping those kids build those memories and build those bonding experiences.”

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