Tatum community raises $2,400-plus to send young fans to Austin

Tatum community raises $2,400-plus to send young fans to Austin

TATUM (KYTX) - When Tatum High School's basketball team plays in the state tournament Friday morning, among the thousands of spectators in Austin will be more than 60 of their biggest supporters.

Together, they are the Tatum Elementary School Yell Squad, and people in the community made sure these small-sized big talkers are in Austin to cheer on the Eagles.

When Tatum Eagle Klifton Willis hit a running jump shot Saturday at the overtime buzzer to win the regional championship, the crowd went wild.

"I jumped up and started hollering and screaming," said Robey Box, one of more than 60 members of the Tatum Yell Squad -- elementary school students who chant and cheer for the Eagles.

The idea began earlier this season, and if the game is in Tatum or elsewhere, the Eagles count on seeing their young fans.

"It's really exciting," says fifth-grader Rylie Lessen. "You're on the edge of your seats and - AH! - the whole time."

"I don't even like basketball," student Mason Reimer says, "but it's just fun whenever you get to go with your friends and watch a game and cheer."

Organizer Amy Haden says high school students from opposing teams have a hard time responding to Tatum's youngsters.

"One of the reasons that we started this organization was to teach our students how to have, just that good sportsmanship and to cheer for their team, but at the same time, be respectful," Haden says.

The students told me that the biggest reaction came at arch-rival White Oak during a district game, when the highs school student section, known as the Mojoes, asked the Yell Team, "Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"It just, like, made all of us mad," Tatum fifth-grader Chloe Permenter says, "because we, we were just offended by it."

But that was one of the Eagles' 33 wins this season, putting them in the state tournament.

The Yell Squad needed more than $2,400 for 60-plus students to get to Austin on chartered bus. Haden says she sent out a social media memo, and the community raised the money in 24 hours.

"Great response," Haden says. "Our community always seems to come together for things like this."

The Yell Squad leaves before daybreak Friday for the Eagles' state semifinal game against Bushland, at 10 Friday morning at the University of Texas at Austin.


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