Carolina Panthers

Panthers fans celebrate their team at playoff rally

Charita Powell has stuck by her hometown Carolina Panthers since the team’s first day, through good seasons and bad.

No way was the 48-year-old Charlottean going to miss Friday night’s Panthers Playoff Pep Rally at the EpiCentre uptown, rain or no rain.

“We have to cheer on the Panthers,” Powell said. “We’re so proud of them. I’ve been rooting for them since day one.”

Powell joined what organizers estimated to be a crowd of 1,500 fans at the rally, held in advance of Saturday’s playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium.

The rally featured performances by the Panthers’ drum line, PurrCussion, and about a dozen members of the Panthers’ cheerleading squad, the TopCats

Soaking it all in were longtime fans such as Teresa Drakeford, 49, of Charlotte.

“I’m a diehard fan, and I supported the team when they weren’t doing good,” she said of lean years that included a 1-15 season in 2001. “I’ve worn my Panthers shirt every Sunday, faithfully.”

Derice Hall, 39, was among the fans blowing their car horns when the Panthers returned to the stadium Sunday nightafter defeating the Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC South title. She wouldn’t have missed Friday night’s rally, either.

“This is to rally the community for our team,” Hall said. “We’re celebrating our team.”

Maria Beall, 42, of Matthews brought sons Michael, 11, and Evan, 8. The boys wore their Cam Newton No. 1 jerseys.

“We’re not No. 2,” Michael said of the Panthers. He expects the team to win on Saturday.

His mom just enjoyed all of the fans coming together Friday night to celebrate the team’s accomplishments.

“This is where the New Year’s Day Party is,” she said. “Right here.”