New Hampshire Football Report

It’s all about tradition

Rich Alercio

Football is a copycat game.  We imitate (copy, borrow, replicate, clone) plays, schemes, formations, alignments, stunts, coverages, blitzes…why not traditions?

Heading into the 2014 season, after changing our helmets, we reinforced success by starting new traditions.  We looked at the best traditions in college football and sought the help of other coaches for creative ideas.

Since we are the Hilltoppers, my good friend and fellow coach who is an exceptional motivator/leader suggested we emulate Clemson’s run down the hill as they enter into “Death Valley.” We have a cross country trail that goes down a hill through the woods and exits at the entrance of our stadium.

2017-05-16 Down Hill Tradition

Then, we borrowed the “We Are…” call from Marshall and Penn State.  Now, before every home game we take the XC trail into the woods and at the top of the hill above our stadium, I yell “WE ARE” and the team responds “HILLTOPPERS”.  Then we run down the hill to enter our stadium.

To further enhance our look, we borrowed the Ohio State tradition of awarding helmet stickers.  Since we are not buckeyes and no one knows what a Hilltopper is, we use little white footballs as our helmet stickers.  Kids love the look and it causes them to watch more video as they email me on Sunday with how many stickers they believe they have earned.

2017-05-16 Helmet Stickers.png

To finish out the gameday experience, we introduced tailgating.  Please let me emphasize, tailgating does not mean alcohol or unruly behavior. It’s about family, fellowship, and team cohesion. We create an environment where parents, players, students, and faculty extend the Hilltopper team culture into the local community. We section off a parking lot that overlooks our stadium.  Our player’s parents set up a smoker, grills and tables.  Every parent brings something to share and contributes to the event.  The parents of our freshmen players often staff the smoker and grills so the parents of our older players do not miss seeing their sons play.  Win or lose, our staff, families and players head to the parking lot to tailgate after every home game. They share the Hilltopper spirit, extend the Hilltopper family, and reinforce the Hilltopper Tradition. If we do this right, players, parents, teachers, coaches, and the community may come and go over the decades ahead, but “tradition will never graduate.”

Thankfully, we win more than we lose.  Since the 2014 season, when we changed our helmet color and instituted these new traditions, we have gone 13-3 at home including a 4-0 playoff record.

Recent posts about “Making the Big Time Where You Are,” have really spurred great feedback and comments from readers. I look forward to sharing one reader’s reflections on our program in an upcoming blog post. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did!

If you’d like to learn more about making your program “The Big Time” for you, please stay with us on We’ll be discussing more of the changes we implemented to cultivate success in the coming weeks. Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.”


Rich Alerico is the head coach at St. Johnsbury (Vt.) Academy. You can read more about his coaching philosophy at He can be reached at

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