BY SAM SCINTA
INDIANAPOLIS – The O’Fallon Township High School Marching Panthers made their return to the biggest stage in the world over the weekend, and the band once again proved it belongs among the nation’s elite.
The Blue and Gold competed in the Bands of America Grand National Championships with a Preliminary round performance on Friday afternoon followed by a Semi-Final round performance on Saturday at Indianapolis’ palatial Lucas Oil Stadium.
Preliminary competition featured over 100 bands from around the country, with the top 30 bands advancing to Saturday’s Semi-Final round. Of those 30, the top 12 groups advance to compete in Saturday evening’s Finals round, where the highest overall score brings home the National Championship.
In Prelims, the Marching Panthers would place 24th overall with a score of 85.75, the second highest score among Illinois representatives.
Saturday’s competition brought a fairly early performance time of 8 p.m. cst, which meant an even earlier report and warm-up time. The lost sleep didn’t seem to bother O’Fallon, however, as the band climbed two spots in the rankings to finish the competition in 22nd place.
While being ten spots out of Finals competition might not seem terribly close, but the gap between the scores of Homestead (IN) and Dobyns-Bennett (TN) (These two bands tied for the 12th Finals spot, and therefore both competed in the next round) and OTHS was just over three points, showing a very small gap between a large number of groups.
In Finals, the National Championship Trophy, known as the Eagle, would come back to Indiana as Carmel High School won its third Title since 2005 in unbelievably close fashion.
The Marching Greyhounds scored an incredible 97.45, just 0.4 points under the BOA record. One school having a score like this in a competition is rare, but having two is unheard of. Unheard of, but true.
Carmel’s rival for perennial supremacy in the state of Indiana made another run at the Eagle, and the Avon High School Marching Black and Gold came as close to it as you can get.
A tie. A tie for the National Championship. Fortunately for those who dislike competitive draws, Bands of America has provisions for such events, and by virtue of the higher General Effect score (58.50 to 58.20), Carmel came out victorious.
It was the first time in the history of the event that dates back to the 1970’s that the National Championship was determined on a tie-breaker.
The season for the Marching Panthers is not a lost one without that third performance. That would have simply been historic icing on the cake to a season that has already featured its share of O’Fallon-friendly fortunes and triumphs.
Next for the band is a return to parade form as the Marching Panthers begin preparations to perform at the upcoming Orange Bowl Parade in South Florida. Then will be a short offseason before the band again begins its march towards Indianapolis.