EAST MANATEE -- The Woolfpack showed up just before 8 p.m. wearing schmaltzy Walmart tees they bought for $7.97 the night before -- each emblazoned with a blue-eyed wolf.
"This is a big night for us, a big night for him," said Don French, Braden River High School assistant principal, to students. "If you're here to socalize -- go home."
About 100 students cozied up in the school auditorium Wednesday to root for one of their own, "American Idol" contestant Sam Woolf, a 17-year-old Bradenton native vying for the singing competition's top slot among the last 13 contestants.
For the next two hours, squeals and screams erupted each and every time the crooner showed his dreamy mug on camera.
"It's so weird seeing our
school in the news and on camera when you see other schools on TV for this kind of stuff all the time," said junior Stephanie Rinehart. "Our school really supports him."
After Dexter Roberts sang a milquetoast version of Chris Young's "Aw Naw" that judge Harry Connick Jr. deemed out of tune, after Emily Piriz belted an irresistible cover of Pink's "Glitter in the Air," Sam Woolf took the stage to uncork a so-so rendition of Matchbox 20's "Unwell."
More squeals, more screams.
"I thought it showed all of this experience," Woolf said to host Ryan Seacrest of his song choice. "I'm not crazy for trying out for 'American Idol.' I'm just trying to live my dream."
The judges weren't as impressed as they were with Woolf's near-perfect performance of his own "I Try" two weeks ago.
"The lyric I think is so important in that song. ... I almost wish (your vocal) was a little messed up to match the sentiment of the tune," Connick said.
"I thought the tempo was a bit slow. I wanted it to go a little more for energy," Keith Urban said.
But Jennifer Lopez, who has an announced affinity for the rosy-cheeked songster, spoke up: "You're like a quiet storm...you're very adorable. You sing perfectly -- now you just have to come alive a little on stage. Get loose up there!"
With that, Braden River students -- some sleepy, some hungry -- filed out of the auditorium.
"I definitely think he's going to win!" said junior Morgan Bastien.
"Idol" contestants will perform in an hour-long show Thursday and one contestant will be eliminated. All "Idol" shows begin at 8 p.m. on FOX.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.