Community fans rally for the Bulldogs

Mallory Moats

At the scene of a Rolla High School basketball game, the crowd is full of the usual suspects: devoted parents, a rowdy student section, and a loud pep band. However, upon further inspection, there are also devoted community members who come out each night to cheer on their hometown team. Players graduate and the bleachers fade, but these loyal fans remain season after season.
Last season was an exception to this pattern. Most community members could not attend games, since there was a limited amount of passes handed out to players for their families. But with no restrictions this season, fans are happy to return to the gym.
“It’s fun to be here in person,” commented Ross Stroupe, a devoted basketball game attendee. “We’ve watched a lot of games on streaming because of the COVID situation, but if we can make it here, we are glad to be able to do that.”
Stroupe comes to basketball games with Sandy King who also agrees that in-person watching is ideal.
“It’s a different atmosphere than staying at home,” said King. “We enjoy watching the game from home, but you get into the spirit when you’re there. I think the fans are very supportive of our student athletes, whether it’s wrestling, football, or basketball.”
King has lots of experience attending Rolla basketball games.
“My late husband was the superintendent of the school, and I’ve been coming to Rolla ball games for 44 years,” said King. “It’s just one of those things that I enjoy, and I support the school, the students, and the faculty. I just like to be out among them.”
Another fan, who has been attending games longer than most high schoolers’ parents have been alive, is Dwayne Miles.
“I started out coaching here at [Rolla] high school in 1958,” said Miles. “I coached for five years, got an ulcer, and got out of [coaching], but then I got into refereeing. I loved to referee. I’ve been around the game all my life, and I love it, so I come and watch it. I want to win, but we don’t have to win. It’s how we play the game and what we get and take from the game.
Two other loyal fans, Joyce Heidecke and Mary Jane Aufdengarten, come to basketball games to support youth they know from their church.
“We both go to Greentree [Christian Church], and a lot of our kids play basketball, volleyball and softball, so we come,” said Heidecke. “These kids are great and fun to watch.”
These ladies were affectionately nicknamed the church ladies two years ago by the boys’ basketball team, but they are invested in all the players, whether they go to their church or not.
“We feel like we know all the players, even if they don’t know us, but they should because we come to all the games.” said Heidecke.
All of these fans are excited to watch more Rolla basketball games in the new gym.
“I’m 85 years old,” said Miles. “I just hope I can make it to the new gym. This one was one or two years old when I first came to Rolla to teach and to coach. I would like to see the new gym.”