The high school band in Elizabeth, N.J., has school spirit and pride in its accomplishments _ just like the football team.
For both the football team and the marching band, the time has come to suck it up and bear down.
``If we can win our next three games,' said Jerry Moore, the football coach, ``we can still make the playoffs.'``The band championship at Giants Stadium,' said Roger Bangert, the band director, ``will be a dogfight.'
``You win, you lose, but you go on,' said Moore, 50. ``This is real life. Football teaches values and discipline.'
``You win together; you lose together,' said Bangert, also 50. ``Band teaches discipline and values. It is even realer life than football.'
The Elizabeth High School Minutemen went into Friday night's game against Plainfield with a 3-2 record. They must win.
``The Pride of Elizabeth' must do well in Sunday's regional competition in Trenton, a tune-up for their super bowl, the Cadets Marching Band Cooperative on Nov. 7. Two years ago, the band won in its category with a ``West Side Story' routine.
``Let's put it this way,' said David Heras, the 18-year-old head drum major. ``We are as competitive as football players, but we don't have the anger.'
They do have the flash, these 88 musicians, 24 color guards and 3 drum majors, whose current ``Carmen' spectacular drives fans to boogie on the grandstand planks.
The band tends to reflect the sex, race and ethnicity of the school's 4,300 students (almost 50 percent Hispanic, 30 percent black, the rest white and Asian). Band mothers and fathers seem more actively involved than any other parents' group in the school.
The football team is all male, of course, and predominantly black. The acting principal, a former football coach, touts the team as the soul of the school, and the predominantly white male athletic department parrots the line, at least until basketball season.
The coaches view the band as their musical accompaniment. The band tends to see athletic events as its warm-up acts.
``Band is better than sports because it is pure,' said Heras, a slim 6-footer. ``This football team is great. One of the captains is a good friend of mine, but some team members will not play in games. They will stand on the sidelines all season long. In band, all of us are on the field all the time and if a third clarinet hits the wrong note it affects us all.'
He was shouting over his own brass section last Friday night during the second half of Elizabeth's 14-12 loss to Union. It was a tough game to lose. Union is a traditional rival and the powerhouse to beat if Elizabeth does get to the playoffs next month.
Bangert, the band director, defends his emphasis on competition as critical to engaging transient, immigrant, working-class students to a non-sports group activity.
The band contests become exciting goals, which bind the girls and the boys even through the winter and spring, when the marching band breaks into a noncompetitive concert band and various ensembles, he explained.
``The cultural has more lasting impact than the athletic,' said Bangert. 'Football is just for the game. Music is forever.'