BY MARK MORING, Eastern Shore Post —
It’s a typical Friday night for Pedro Mateo-Sanchez, a senior at Northampton High School.
In the early evening, for a little more than an hour, he’s down in the trenches, blocking and tackling and grunting and grinding as a two-way lineman for the Yellow Jackets football team.
He’s about 170 pounds, often going against players that outweigh him by 50 pounds or more.
Then, for about 15 minutes, covered in sweat, dirt, and grass stains, still clad in football cleats and pants and a grubby white T-shirt, he’s up on a podium, the drum major, leading the Northampton marching band through its halftime show.
As soon as the last note is played, Mateo-Sanchez hustles back to the football team, puts his helmet, pads, and jersey back on, and goes back to the grind for two more quarters — rarely, if ever, coming off the field.
“Yeah,” he says, “it’s a lot.”
Mateo-Sanchez seems to thrive on doing “a lot.” He plays three sports for the Yellow Jackets — football, wrestling, and baseball. He’s a good student who hopes to someday be a band instructor himself. And hey, he was also in the Homecoming Court.
It’s a lot.
Along the way, Mateo-Sanchez has helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a 5-4 record. They host Nandua (4-5) on Friday, Nov. 3. at 6:15 p.m., for the Eastern Shore District Championship.
After a 1-3 start, Northampton has won four of its last five. “We’ve definitely progressed,” Mateo-Sanchez says. “I think we’re probably at our best right now. But Nandua’s a tough team, so we have to be ready.”
The band’s got to be ready too, for this last regular season game. And it’s Senior Night, so Mateo-Sanchez wants to finish on a high note — pun intended.
“Playing my last game at Northampton is a little sad,” he says. “But it’s been a fun ride.” He’ll be escorted for Senior Night by his parents, Jacinto and Sandra, and his three siblings, and maybe a few other family members.
Balancing football and band is quite a feat, but he’s been doing it since eighth grade.
“Somehow we make it work with my coach (John Edney) and my band instructor (Brad Ford),” Mateo-Sanchez says. “Coach Edney sometimes wants me at football practice when I’m with the band, but he supports us, and he knows this is something I want to do in the future.”
Mateo-Sanchez wants to study music at Virginia Commonwealth University and eventually be a band director, but says he first might join the military to earn some money to pay for college.
He was tapped to be drum major last spring when several of the band’s section leaders — he led the percussion section — interviewed for the position.
“I was really happy when I learned I would be drum major,” he says. “I wanted to help take the marching band to a successful and fun season.”
Mateo-Sanchez had to study hard for the job, learning how to read entire scores — for every instrument, not just the percussion section — in order to lead with confidence.
“I had to memorize the music to know the tempo, different parts of the composition, or be able to tell when someone or a section is off,” he says. “I’ve learned that I have a good ear for music, and I can tell when something doesn’t sound right.”
Though the band won’t have any more football games after tonight, they will play in six holiday parades over the next month — in Norfolk, Cheriton, Exmore, Onancock, Chincoteague, and Pocomoke City. Northampton is the only high school on the Virginia Shore with a marching band.
Coaches and faculty speak of Mateo-Sanchez as “a good kid.” Edney elaborates on that: “Great behavior. And he does the little things — picking up trash on the practice field, making sure the locker room’s clean, teaching younger guys what to do. He’s always respectful, absolutely a coach’s dream.”
If you come to Friday’s game, you’ll see him. He’s the one down in the middle, wearing No. 54, when the teams collide at the scrimmage line. He’s also the one up on the podium, conducting the band at halftime — in cleats, football pants, and a dirty T-shirt.
“My band director won’t let me wear the band jacket at halftime,” he says with a laugh. “Too sweaty, and he doesn’t want to have to wash it.”