STANFORD, Calif. — Saturday night, one year removed from their first head-to-head win over their crosstown foes in more than a decade, Santa Clara Vanguard walked back into the same venue as gold medalists.

It was at the 2018 iteration of DCI West that Vanguard set its first championship season since 1999 in motion, besting the Blue Devils after more than 200 consecutive head-to-head meetings had gone the way of the Concord corps.

But Saturday marked 15 head-to-head wins in a row since last June for Vanguard. Fresh off of a win Friday night in Clovis, the defending DCI World Champions topped a list of six World and three Open Class corps in primetime in the Bay Area.

The Santa Clara corps earned a score of 73.000, and took home top marks in the general effect and music captions. Blue Devils weren’t far behind, earning a first-place finish in visual while notching a score of 72.350 and finishing the exact same distance behind Vanguard as they did on Friday.


View scores from DCI West

“It was an amazing feeling,” Blue Devils drum major Everett Kim said. “Stanford is always very close to the heart. It’s like a home show for us. We went out there with a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, and it paid off.”

For the second night in a row, though, The Cavaliers, who are on an early-season California jaunt for the first time since 1997, weren’t far off. With a score of 71.000, the Rosemont corps’ distance from the Blue Devils (1.35 points) marked the closest those two have been since mid-July in 2018. The Cavaliers also finished as high as second in brass, just two tenths of a point behind Vanguard.

In fourth place, last year’s breakout corps, Mandarins, built upon their impressive opening output with a score of 67.850. Friday night in Clovis, the Sacramento corps scored more than four points higher than it did in its 2018 debut.

Mandarins may be one of the hottest corps to keep an eye on this summer after the group made its very first appearance as a World Class DCI World Championship finalist in 2018. The pressure of pulling off a repeat Top 12 appearance has been fuel for corps members early on this season.

“A corps hasn’t made finals two years in a row after making it for the first time in a very long time,” said Mandarins tuba player Sean Letso. “We’re trying to push this drum corps somewhere that it’s never been before, and it’s really an exciting experience being a part of that.”

The 5.15 points separating Vanguard and Mandarins is the closest the two have ever been. As has been the case during the corps’ rise over the last two years, Mandarins put up impressive numbers in the visual captions on Saturday night.

The Academy — which also improved upon its 2018 season-opening score by more than three points on Friday — took fifth place with a score of 64.950. Last season, a year in which the Arizona corps finished in 15th place, didn’t see The Academy come near breaking 65 points until the very last day of June.

Troopers rounded out the World Class lineup in sixth with a score of 61.450, but also showed improvement from 2018. Last year at the same Stanford event, the corps finished with a score of 60.100.

Featuring a new uniformed look to complement the corps’ “Beyond Boundaries” production, the Casper, Wyoming group is aiming to break new ground in 2019.

“Tonight’s performance was the culmination of what we’ve been working on for the last month now,” said front ensemble percussionist Ashton Chancellor McKinney. “Troopers are taking a big step this year, and it’s unlike what we’ve done in the past.”

Saturday’s trio of Open Class competitors, all from the Bay Area, featured the last six year’s worth of Open Class gold and silver medalists.

Vanguard Cadets and Blue Devils B won’t be carrying on that impressive streak this summer, however, as both corps will be performing a shortened tour that doesn’t include a trip to the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis.

“Having the shorter tour, because our time is condensed, it creates a stronger bond,” said fifth-year Blue Devils B color guard captain Haley Duarte. “We have a shorter time to enjoy the experience, so there’s no time for us to take anything for granted. We’re just enjoying every second we have together.”

Regardless of the length or the location of their tours, the two corps continue to impress with their early-season scores.

Achieving top marks in all captions, Blue Devils B topped the Open Class lineup with a score of 58.800, with Vanguard Cadets (2nd, 55.500) a few points behind.

“The audience was very, very live,” Vanguard Cadets drum major Jeffrey Richard said. “I could tell from my position that they were really liking what we were throwing down.”

Despite ending their season this summer on July 20, Richard says that there’s a lot more to come from the corps as the young 2019 DCI Tour unfolds.

“The most exciting thing for me is that we’re not done [with our production],” Richard said. “So stay tuned for a lot of changes.”

Capping off the scoresheets, Blue Devils C, whose youngest member this season is just seven years old, earned a final tally of 43.250. That score is nearly two points better than Friday night’s result and a whopping five and a half points above the corps’ output in Stanford just a year ago.

The corps earned a huge ovation from the crowd with its home state-centric 2019 production, “California Dreaming.”

“They’re songs that everybody knows and remembers, at least in my generation anyway,” said Blue Devils C director Rick Odello. “We’re playing the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. It’s a lot of stuff that’ll make you toe tap and remember on your way out of the stadium.”

All nine corps will be immediately back in action in just 24 short hours, meeting up with Bakersfield’s Golden Empire in northern California for a 10-corps showdown at the Moonlight Classic in Sacramento.

View the 2019 DCI Tour Schedule

Contributing to this report: Christina Mavroudis