EAST PEORIA — It’s known as a war chant — the one made famous by the Florida State Seminoles and used by many fans of teams with Native American nicknames throughout America.
That same war chant actually became something of a rallying cry for the Minooka Indians softball team this postseason as they finished the season on a nine-game winning streak that was culminated in a state championship. Only, as the success of the locals moved forward, the war chants that the Indians bench engaged in morphed and grew into something all-together unique.
“It’s just these girls. We call them the bench mob,” Minooka coach Mark Brown said. “They support each other a lot.”
Which is something of an understatement.
Led by senior Ali Bagley and junior Faith Thompson, the chant became almost as dynamic in the dugout as the play on the field.
“Ali’s a senior and if you asked her, I’m sure she’d tell you that she’d have liked to have been on the field more. I’ve seen it in the past where seniors who were not getting enough playing time would withdrawal and pout, but Ali was the complete opposite. She supported her friends and team and got the girls motivated,” Brown said. “They are big supporters. I can’t say enough about all of them. From the first game of regionals, they came out that way. It isn’t something that just started in the state finals. They have been loud and out-cheering every team we’ve faced. That’s a real credit to our bench.”
At some point drum beats using bats joined the simple chanting.
“The bats on the ceiling originated from Jordyn Larsen. One day she got really fired up and started doing it,” Bagley said. Then we really made it a thing in our postseason and then it evolved into certain cheers and dances. That was basically our thing. When we came down here, at first we were really upset because they wouldn’t let us do it. But (Saturday) we got the O.K. to do it. It all evolved from just banging on the ceiling. After that we started thinking of beats and dancing and stuff.”
Chanting, drumming and dancing all the way to a state tile.
“Our bench is a big part of that. They are so supportive of us,” Minooka senior captain Mikayla Melone said. “They are so loud and cheering. We never give up. We know that we can put runs together and come back no matter what. Even after what we went through in the earlier part of the season, we deserve this.”
Minooka did face some adversity this season. Namely losing three games in a row in early April and losing five Southwest Prairie Conference games in total. Still, nobody ever gave up on the Indians this spring. Not the bench and not their loyal fans.
“The Minooka crowd always comes out. No matter how far away we are we always have the super-fans here,” Bagley said. “They come out no matter where we are. It could be 30 degrees and raining and they’d be there. They’ve supported us the whole time.”