By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
Every fall in the West Valley, you can find great green chile burros and topnotch football. Just arrive early. The burros (and often the opponent) are wiped out quickly.
"They're usually gone before halftime," says Carmen Miranda, president of the high school's booster club. (And yes, that's her real name.) "We only sell 100. That's our limit." Tillie Alcantar, a longtime fixture in the Peoria High School cafeteria, works overtime to make her $2 home-style specialties.
If only cafeteria food was this good.
Asked why Alcantar doesn't make more, Miranda explains that the sophomore class needs to make money, too, selling hot dogs and chips.
Maybe the sophomore class should hire Alcantar.
Built in 1922, the school is steeped in tradition. And few local institutions around here have the backing of an entire town the way Peoria High does.
"There are generations after generations of families that have gone there," Miranda says. "I don't think there is another high school that has the tradition and support. It's like one big family."
Peoria grads don't wait for homecoming to visit their old haunts, which makes this once tiny community seem more like a small town in Texas, where Friday night lights shine brighter than anything else around.
The old-timers sit at the 20-yard line. Until recently, that group included Frank Rivera. For at least 30 years, he sat in the same seat, and the school named a bleacher after him. That's where you'll find Frank's sons, Johnny and Gary Rivera, along with their school chums Paul Rangel and Harvey Chavez. The diehard Panther fans, approaching their 40s, go to every game, home or away (where visiting Peoria fans routinely outdraw opponents' home crowds).
The backs of their dark green tee shirts read: "Proud, Poised & Prepared."
A recent game against Alhambra is a Peoria blowout, as most games have been this season, and the fourth-ranked, 10-1 Panthers are in the playoffs, again.
When the Panther Pride leaves, well after the game has ended, you can finally read the words on Johnny and Gary's father's favorite bleacher: "In Memory of a Dedicated Fan -- Frank Rivera."