When the defense enters Kenan Stadium to a frenzy of waving pom-poms, roaring fans and the strains of the "Imperial March," senior Bobby Rathbone cannot escape exhilaration.
As one of three drum majors for the UNC Marching Tar Heels, Rathbone takes great pride in the enthusiasm generated at football games.
"You know that you're probably creating that (excitement)," Rathbone said.
But for Rathbone and many other members of UNC's marching band, that feeling will be bittersweet during Saturday's game against the University of Maryland.
The Homecoming game is also Senior Day.
"It's sort of a farewell to those who are graduating," Rathbone said.
Marching Band Director Jeff Fuchs said the band's senior members will be recognized at the game.
In honor of the event, the senior members selected the songs that the band will perform during the halftime show.
The songs were pulled from the collection of shows amassed by the band in the past four years.
And when the Marching Tar Heels take the field during halftime, spectators might notice that the band's presence will be larger than usual.
About 150 alumni will join the band in their halftime performance, Fuchs said.
Past and present Marching Tar Heels will come together to play "Hark the Sound" and "Here Comes Carolina," conducted by former band director Major JohnYesulaitis.
Yesulaitis came to UNC as band director in 1963, after spending 27 years in the United States Armed Forces.
He remained in the position for 26 years, and will return to conduct the Homecoming game performance.
More than six hours of practice will go into Saturday's performance, Fuchs said. The band will rehearse with the alumni during the 2 1/2 hour practice before the game.
During the week, the Marching Tar Heels will welcome the returning alumni at a reception and a barbecue.
"It's a real neat experience (to meet with the alumni)," Rathbone said. "You get a chance to hear how things have progressed."
In the stands, fans can count on the band to provide the same energetic performance that they have given all season, Rathbone said.
"Our goal is to create a fun atmosphere and environment for those who came to watch the football team win," he said.
Junior band member Betty Landers said many hours of practice would culminate in a great performance Saturday, both on and off the field.
"Our purpose in the stands is to cheer our team on to victory while representing the University in a positive way," she said.
Landers said she planned on doing her part to support the football team.
"I'm going to pull for them 'til the bitter end, no matter how bitter it is," she said. "That's because I'm a Tar Heel."