Penn Hills cheerleaders to perform at Orange Bowl

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn Hills residents tuning in to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 may want to stick around for the halftime show.

The Penn Hills varsity cheerleaders will perform as part of the Orange Bowl halftime festivities, the second time the squad has been invited to a Bowl Championship Series event.

The team performed at the 2011 Sugar Bowl halftime show in New Orleans.

“This group of girls has really earned their way,” said cheer coach Janet Ferrell of the roughly $1,600-per-cheerleader cost of the trip.

“A lot of times, parents will be the ones selling fundraiser hoagies. I've been guilty of that, too, in the past. But they really pulled together and worked hard.”

The 18-member squad put together fundraisers: hoagie sales, a spaghetti dinner where they cooked and served, a Halloween dance organized for Linton Middle School students, and even a light-natured fundraiser where students could buy a strip of duct tape for $1 and use it to help tape Penn Hills High School Principal Eric Kostic to the cafeteria wall during lunch.

As for the trip itself, the cheerleaders are learning material for three songs that halftime performer and country-music star Dierks Bentley will perform.

But they have to learn quickly, Ferrell said.

“We just got the CD two weeks ago,” she said on Dec. 17.

Despite being invited almost a year ago, the squad only has about a month between getting the CD and performing on national television.

In addition to their regular cheering work, the group has been meeting for additional Sunday practices dedicated solely to the Orange Bowl routine.

“There's no cheering; it's strictly dancing, so it's different from their normal routines,” Ferrell said.

Practice has been the toughest part of the process, Ferrell added.

“Most of the girls are doing other things in addition to cheering: basketball season is starting, it's Christmas, it's finals … that's why we're rehearsing on Sunday evenings, that's about the only free time,” she said.

The squad will fly to Florida on New Year's Eve, rehearsing at the local convention center with the other 42 squads that are also part of the halftime performance.

Ferrell said all of the hard work has been worth it.

“It was a lot to raise the money to go down there,” she said.

“So when they called and asked, I wanted to do everything in my power to get them there.”

The 2014 Discover Orange Bowl will take place on Jan. 3, with Clemson taking on Ohio State at 8:30 p.m. at Sun-Life Stadium.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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