By Rob Potter
LAKE HUNTINGTON It would be virtually impossible for anyone attending a Sullivan West basketball game not to notice the Dawg Pound.
It is the very organized and very vocal student cheering section for the SW basketball team. The Dawg Pound members dress in black T-shirts (purchased on their own) which feature the words “Sullivan West Dawg Pound” and an image of a Bulldog on the front. On the back of the T-shirt is the student’s nickname.
Throughout a game, the Dawg Pound supports the Bulldogs with unique cheers and demonstrations such as simulating riding on a roller coaster.
During a game against John S. Burke Catholic High School last Wednesday, the Dawg Pound came dressed in shirts and ties, poking a little fun at the private school’s dress code. They voiced several different cheers and comments.
“You can’t do that,” the Dawg Pound members shouted in unison when a Burke player was called for a foul. In the third quarter they chanted, “We want Talbi” in the hopes of convincing SW Coach Bruce Nober to put senior Adam Talbi into the game. Moments later, they yelled “Talbi, Talbi, Talbi” as he stepped up to the free-throw line.
Against Liberty, when the Indians star player Eddie Byrd got ejected in the third quarter, the Dawg Pound immediately blurted out, “Bye-Bye Birdie.”
The leader of the Dawg Pound is Charlie “Mr. Goodlooking” Ciccione, a 17-year-old senior at SW High School. He noted that the Dawg Pound was started by a group of SW students during the 2004-2005 basketball season and has been going strong ever since.
“We usually have 50 to 100 students in the Dawg Pound,” Ciccione said. “We had about 150 students here for the Liberty game last Friday night.”
Ciccione said that he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the days before a game coming up with ideas for cheers. He said that he gets a lot of help from fellow Dawg Pound members Cody Franskevicz, Chris Lang and Tom Mootz in creating and organizing the cheers and routines such as the roller coaster. They come up with ideas before a game or during a game.
“Before the game, I tell the other members of the Dawg Pound what we are going to do and when, so we are organized,” explained Ciccione, who has been in the Dawg Pound since he was a freshman.
While the Dawg Pound has appeared at both SW varsity boys’ and girls’ basketball games in the past, this season the group has concentrated on attending the boys’ games. The Dawg Pound has been present at home and away games, though obviously smaller on the road. Ciccione said he has been at all of the team’s games.
Ciccione took over the leadership role of the Dawg Pound from Jillian Fife, who graduated last June. As the leader, Ciccione makes it a priority to make sure the Dawg Pound stays positive and displays good sportsmanship in its cheers and routines.
“If there is something I think that might cross the line, I check with Mr. and Mrs. Franskevicz before we do it,” said Ciccione, referring to SW Athletic Director David Franskevicz and his wife Bev Franskevicz, who is one of the regular chaperones at basketball games held at SW High School.
Ciccione enjoys his role as leader of the Dawg Pound.
“It’s always a good time,” he said.
Lang and Cody Franskevicz also like being a part of the group.
Lang, a 17-year-old senior, has been in the Dawg Pound since he was a freshman.
“It helps the team,” he said of the Dawg Pound. “The players love the Dawg Pound. We get our guys fired up, and we try to use cheers that get into the other team’s head. But we try to keep it positive.”
Cody Franskevicz, a 15-year-old sophomore in his second year with the group, noted that the Dawg Pound gets some of its ideas for cheers and chants from college student cheering sections and some ideas from the members themselves.
“You can cheer on your team, but you still have to be respectful,” he commented.
The Dawg Pound has been embraced by the Bulldog basketball players, fellow SW fans and the school’s administration.
“When the Dawg Pound first began, one of the leaders was Mike Barrett, and he did a good job with the group,” said SW High School Principal Margaret Tenbus. “Then for a few years, the Dawg Pound got kind of negative with its behavior and cheers.”
However, Tenbus noted that negativity doesn’t exist with the current edition of the Dawg Pound.
“This is a great group of students,” she said. “Charlie Ciccione does a very good job of keeping them in line and keeping things positive. He will be missed next year, but someone will step up to lead the Dawg Pound.
“The Dawg Pound has done a great job this season of supporting our team,” Tenbus added. “I am proud of them.”