The Herd wins second title in three years

BUCHANAN — For the third time in its nine-year history, Buchanan is the winner of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Battle of the Fans.

The winner was announced Friday morning in advance of Buchanan’s showdown with arch rival Brandywine in BCS Athletic Conference Red Division action.

“It is always surprising,” said Herd leader Morgan Struss. “I felt we had good competition this year. It is always great.”

Members of The Herd gathered in Lisa  Holak’s classroom and waited for the announcement of the winner last Friday via Instagram and Twitter account.

“We all find out at the same time,” Struss said. “We had it up on a projector and she would refresh it every couple of minutes. It was like 10:02 [a.m.] and they were supposed to announce it at 10. They announced it and we all went crazy.”

Struss was in middle school when Buchanan captured its first banner. She was a freshman in 2018 when the second championship was secured.

Buchanan’s The Herd was one of three finalists for the student cheering section competition sponsored by the MHSAA and its Student Advisory Council. The other finalists were Saginaw Heritage and Zeeland East.

“I wish we could bottle what The Herd does and give some to every school in the state,” said Andy Frushour, MHSAA director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council. “They have set the bar for student section organization, sportsmanship, constant noise and, most of all, fun. And they genuinely want to see other student sections succeed. So we’re excited to see who will take on the champs next year.”

The Herd has been a mainstay in the competition since it started in 2012. Buchanan won titles in 2013 and 2018, while it was also a finalist in 2014 and 2015. The Herd also inspired and helped Dowagiac enter the competition and win it in 2015.

Member schools of the MHSAA are encouraged in the fall to submit a short video via YouTube of their cheering section. That initial group, the Student Advisory Committee votes for nine semifinalists based on positive sportsmanship, student body participation, school spirit, originality of cheers, organization of the group, section leadership and overall fun.

Buchanan was selected, along with Saginaw Heritage, Zeeland East, Caro, Frankenmuth, Hart, Petersburg Summerfield, Reese and Traverse City West.

The Herd, Saginaw Heritage and Zeeland East were selected as finalists after competing in the social media “challenge round.” After selecting its three finalists, the MHSAA and Student Advisory Council schedule site visits. Buchanan’s original visit had to be rescheduled when its opponent postponed the game due to illness.

The MHSAA, instead, visited Buchanan Feb. 11 when it faced Watervliet. It was the second stop for the MHSAA.

“We’ve established a place where you can be yourself. You can be outgoing. You can have fun. And you don’t have to worry about anybody judging you,” Buchanan senior Carter Aalfs said. “Many people don’t get to have an experience like this where you get to be with all your friends, all having a good time, while also supporting your school.”

The Herd will receive its third Battle of the Fans championship banner during halftime of the Division 2 boys basketball state semifinal in East Lansing at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center on March 27.