BELMONT CRAGIN — St. Patrick High School senior Michael Briglio has been thinking about Friday's boys basketball game against Notre Dame since his freshman year.
And he's not even playing in it.
Briglio is part of St. Pat's loud, proud "Stud Section" — the Chicago high school equivalent to Duke's "Cameron Crazies."
Notre Dame, located in Niles, is easily St. Patrick's biggest rival.
With St. Patrick located at 5900 W. Belmont Ave., the schools are situated about nine miles apart. They have been facing off annually since 1962.
"When you're a senior and you lead the student section, all you think about is the Notre Dame game," said Briglio, of Norridge.
The "Stud Section" originated 18 years ago, when St. Patrick athletic director Brian Glorioso taped individual pieces of paper with the letters S-T-U-D-E-N-T. Glorioso, of Belmont Cragin, said students at the time kept tearing off the E-N-T, leaving the word "STUD."
The next year, an athletic parent group bought the vinyl "Stud Section" sign that still hangs at the school's Kurland Court gymnasium, Glorioso said.
"You can't let the sign touch the ground," said senior Riley O'Malley, of Edgebrook. "It's never touched the ground in my four years here."
O'Malley and the rest of the "Studs" at St. Pat take the rivalry with Notre Dame just as seriously.
"Notre Dame better come prepared, because it's going to be a battle," said senior Vince Notaro, of Norwood Park.
"Stud Section" students do advance planning for every game, preparing cheers and costumes — including beachware, Halloween getups and single-colored attire like "whiteout," "blackout" and "greenout." The St. Pat seniors kept Friday's game plan close to the vest, revealing only that the student section will be dressed in togas.
"We come up with original chants for every game, and we go online and look at what big universities do for cheers," said senior Sean Thompson, of Edgebrook.
Thompson, O'Malley and Briglio said they chose to go to St. Patrick over Notre Dame in part because they attended a contest between the two teams as eighth-graders and were inspired by the Stud Section's exuberance.
They continue the section's legacy by actively recruiting St. Patrick underclassmen in the hallways to show up to Shamrocks games.
Glorioso expects the biggest crowd of the season — between 1,500 and 1,800 fans — on Friday. Doors open at 5 p.m., with the varsity game tipping off at about 7:30 p.m.
Notre Dame athletic director Mike Hennessey, of Norwood Park, said the Stud Section's proximity to the court will prove a big advantage for the home squad.
"They're on the floor," Hennessey said. "It's always an intense and exciting game."
Barring a meeting in the postseason, it will be the last time the "Stud Section" seniors will witness the rivalry as students.
"I plan on crushing them," Notaro said. "I know we're going to."