The rows of trucks begin accumulating two-plus hours prior to kickoff, quickly filling the lot in front of Cerritos College's football stadium with chairs for tailgating, portable barbeques and all the other essentials that make Fridays the marquee come the fall.
One by one, the students – each layered in some sort of Servite garb – make their way into the stands where the organized chants begin soon shortly thereafter.
While not the biggest student section in terms of sheer numbers, "The Asylum" is pound-for-pound one of the most impressive and raucous student sections Orange County has to offer, and they'll reestablish themselves as such when the Friars take on Fountain Valley on Friday night at Huntington Beach High.
"'The Asylum' is as passionate a student section I have ever been around," Servite coach Scott Meyer remarked. "They are vocal for all four quarters and our team feeds off their energy. Definitely the best student section in the county."
Who holds the crown of top student section? That's an argument for another day. But just as "The Asylum" will on Friday night, dozens of student sections throughout the county will flock to their local stadiums and make their presence known for this weekend's slate of openers.
The Game of the Week is a showdown between No. 2 Mission Viejo and No. 4 Santa Margarita on Friday night. It is almost a lock to sell out because the schools have two of the most vocal student sections around.
Mission Viejo's loyal supporters followed the team up to rainy Sacramento last December to watch their squad complete a perfect 16-0 season and capture the CIF State Division I-AA state championship.
Santa Margarita's "Eagles Nest" has established itself as one of the biggest and most passionate sections around.
"The Tribe" – Canyon's student fan base – also is filled with loud and loyal supporters. Hundreds made the trip to Southwestern College in Chula Vista last season to see Canyon play in the regional championships, sitting through a vicious downpour that included lightning storms in the surrounding area.
"We have tons of local and school support," Comanches coach Mike Ogas said. "'The Tribe' is one of the top student sections in the county."
Any number of local coaches will make that very claim, but how can you blame them for thinking such?
The "Titan Army" at Tesoro packs it in on game night. San Clemente's "One town, one team" mantra has taken on a life of its own. And there's perhaps no greater sense of community than a Friday night in La Habra when the "The Clan" and local fans flood the block while lining up to see their Highlanders charge the field to the sound of bagpipes.
The unique traditions you encounter at each stadium is part high school football's unique fabric, and the growth of student sections is adding to the overall experience of Friday nights.
Best student section in Orange County? Go out and decide for yourself.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We asked our staff of OC Varsity reporters about their favorite student sections, and here is what they said:
Dan Albano: "Tesoro's 'Titan Army' seems to pack more spirit each season. The student section tried hard last fall to throw Brock Johnson of Mission Viejo off his game in the schools' South Coast League showdown. And while the quarterback had the final say in the second half, he seemed to respect the 'Army's' effort. The group also is open to postgame interviews with OCVarsity to explain some of the antics that happened during the game. And speaking of Mission Viejo, a small but dedicated group of students impressed me last season by making the trip to a rainy Sacramento to support the Diablos in their quest for a CIF state crown. The Diablos are often loud and proud, home or away."
Damian Calhoun: "Other schools might have a larger student section, but pound-for-pound, 'The Asylum 'holds its own on a consistent basis. Every year, the group gets creative and is entertaining from the opening kickoff until the end of the game. I've covered several Servite football games in the past, and no matter what's going on down on the field, whether the team is competing for Trinity League and CIF titles or not, the support from 'The Asylum' is always strong."
Kenny Connolly: "When you break it down to the most passionate, prideful and wittiest batch of fans, 'The Asylum' seems like it's ahead of the field on all three fronts and has consistently established itself as the standard of Orange County student sections. Football games obviously hold court as the social event to be at on a week-to-week basis, but the guys in 'The Asylum' are always concentrated on the action on the field. They know the game. They understand what's at hand. They feed off the moment. And because they're so in-tune with the action on the field, they can get more creative than your average "score-board" chant when winning. At the crossroad of enthusiasm and creativity, you'll find 'The Asylum.'"