Extra Points: Brian Spano 8/20
By Brian Spano PrepsKC staff writer
As kids head back to school all throughout the metro area, the first assignment from their teacher may be to write an essay about “What I did on my summer vacation.” Some may ask their students to write an essay about “What I like best about….”
I plan to do both.
This time of year I get excited about football, high school football in particular, and I feel like I have to share it with all of you…because I have a feeling many of you feel the same way I do. So here goes.
What I did on my summer vacation was dream about the start of a new high school football season in the Kansas City area. I can’t help but be a little giddy over spending the crisp fall Friday nights covering high school football.
Way back in 1993 I officially began my sports writing career in a small town near the Lake of the Ozarks. And what I loved about that time, and what I learned most about high school football, was the entire town came together to make each Friday night more than the game itself. They made it an event. It brought the town together, if only for that one night, with an “us versus them” mentality.
It didn’t matter if the fans were alumni of that school, it mattered that this school, this team represented their town, their community.
So, this leads to my next essay theme.
What I like best about high school football is the localness of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s Raytown, Lee’s Summit, Olathe or Shawnee. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kansas City, Independence, Lenexa or Overland Park. It doesn’t matter if it’s Independence, Oak Grove, KCK or Lawrence. It doesn’t matter how successful their team is. Each school is identified with its own community, and friends, family, students and faculty come together on those Friday nights to cheer on their team.
I grew up in Raytown and still have a soft spot in my heart for my alma mater Raytown South. I can remember covering games for my high school newspaper and seeing people at the games that had been going for 25 years. Who knows, they may still be attending games today.
This sense of community and the “us versus them” mentality also drives the great rivalries we have grown up with. And as school districts grow, and more and more high schools have popped up through the years, multiple rivalries have ensued.
Take, for instance, the Blue Springs-Rockhurst game. This game has grown so big over the years, it’s usually broadcast on television and radio, and multiple news organizations are in attendance to cover it. It’s taken on a life of its own over the years. Nowadays, it’s referred to casually like it was the Missouri-Kansas Border War or a Chiefs-Raiders AFC West showdown.
But, as I said, with more and more high schools opening up, additional rivalries are developed. Again, look to the east. When Blue Springs South opened, it became a natural rival with Blues Springs High School. You would have to ask the Wildcat students and alumni which is a bigger rivalry.
On the other side of the state line, Sunflower League rivals Olathe North and Olathe South have had some pretty heated battles over the years. Now with a total four schools in the area that include Olathe East and Olathe Northwest, new rivalries will be forged in the years to come.
In all of my years of covering high school football, one of my favorite rivalry games is the North Kansas City-Oak Park matchup. It’s played in a World War II era stadium with one of the neatest stonewalls encircling the field. According to the North Kansas City High School Web site, the stadium was constructed in 1941 and was one of the final Works Progress Administration projects ending the Great Depression in the 1930s. The success of either team is irrelevant. It’s just two cross-town rivals going head-to-head for bragging rights in an absolutely incredible environment. Sometimes; however, there may be a little something extra on the line.
What makes a high school football rivalry so special? It’s the proximity, tradition and longevity that play key roles.
With so many longtime rivals in the Kansas City area to name, there just isn’t enough time or space to talk about each and every one of them. But, as the season progresses, you can bet that we’ll make note of these special rivalries.
Because they provide the aura of autumn as the days continue to grow shorter and the weather begins to cool.
So, in conclusion to my essay, there is no better rivalry in sports, professional or amateur, than the high school rivalry because this is where it all begins.
Brian Spano is a staff writer for PrepsKC.
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