Gimme a peppy high school girl in a large animal costume running all over a stadium full of screaming fans in the Texas heat - what's that spell?
Shelby Cochran, left, and Sara Warzecha split the duties of the Cuero Gobbler mascot, and Ali Arnold, far right, is the Shiner Comanche mascot.
And for those inside the furry suits, high school football isn't just a game: it's a performance. They dance, cheer, do stunts, skits and spoofs all in the name of school spirit. Being a school mascot requires talent, hard work and above all, a sense of humor.
"My job is pumping up the crowd," junior Ali Arnold, a third-year Comanche mascot for Shiner High School, said. "The cheerleaders yell, but I get to dance around."
School mascots tag along with cheerleaders, follow them to games and other appearances. Most local mascots train with the cheerleaders to prepare cheers, skits, decorations and props for the upcoming games and pep rallies.
Sophomores Sarah Warzecha and Shelby Cochran share the responsibility of playing "Toby the Turkey" for the Cuero High School Gobblers. Both girls create skits for pep rallies, like a break-dancing routine for "Break the Bears" week or a sketch where Toby rescues a female turkey from pirates.
Despite being in costume, most mascots said that their fellow students know who they are.
"You don't have to be yourself in the costume. You can be anybody," said sophomore Devon Dueser, a first-year Wildcat mascot for Yorktown High School.
Each girl had her own reasons for wanting to showcase her school spirit as a mascot. Freshman Carla Hairell, a first-year "Bully the Brahma" mascot for Hallettsville High School, said she was following in her sister's footsteps as a high school mascot.
"Actually, honestly, the only reason that I am [the mascot] is because my older sister was it, and I really look up to her and I wanted to do what she did," Hairell said.
To prepare for the excitement of football season, most girls attend a mascot camp during the summer while the school's cheerleaders are at cheer camp. Improvisation was the key to her mascot training, said sophomore Heather Thurmond, a first year Indian mascot at Ganado High School.
"We have mascot games where we'll get our costumes and go up to random people and act like mascots, give them hugs and that stuff," Thurmond said. Each girl summed up what it's like to be in the mascot costume with one word: hot.
The stifling heat was hard to get used to at first, Arnold said.
"I tripped a lot," Arnold said. "It's hard to see through those little pin-sized slits. I run into a lot of stuff, but I play it off. People think I'm doing it to be funny, but I'm just a naturally clumsy person."
However, Arnold added, "It's worth it" - a sentiment freshman Faith Blaschke, a first-year Eagle mascot for Woodsboro High School, can agree with.
"I like to be involved," Blaschke said. "I don't like going to the football games and just sitting there. It's a lot of work and a lot of time, but it's a good experience."
Pamela Bond is a reporter for the Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6578 or by e-mail at email@example.com.