Excitement fills the stands

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 20, 2012 - 12:58 AM

The fans in Kansas arrive early, support a winner
The bar was set on a brisk October evening in the fall of 1994.
Oh, there were big turnouts before that night, and there have been sellout crowds since that matchup of undefeated Olathe teams, but that week 8 showdown between Olathe East and Olathe North is the stuff of legends in Kansas City — not just in Olathe.
They were the top two teams in the Metro area heading into that game. And thanks to the old Kansas playoff system, the winner was headed to the playoffs, and the loser was stuck at home, turning in equipment.
Cars began showing up in the parking lot at what was, at the time, the three-year-old Olathe District Activity Center around 3:30 or 4:00 that Friday afternoon.
The parking lots were filled to capacity before the teams took the field to warm up.
As the first quarter got under way, the line of headlights rolling from the north stretched for more than a mile. People were parking along the side of the road more than a mile away and walking to the remote football stadium on the south side of Olathe.
East beat North in overtime that night in a game that lived up to its billing and then some.
Stories of that night have been passed down from fathers to sons, back and forth between neighbors.
It became the barometer for which all other crowds on the Kansas side of the state line have been measured ever since.
And it shows just how passionate the fans are on the eastern side of the state.
This year, it’s been no different. The dueling cheering sections at the Blue Valley West-St. Thomas Aquinas game a few weeks ago were integral in the Saints’ triple overtime win over the Jaguars.
As overtime started, the entire Aquinas student sections uprooted from their spot on the north end of the bleachers to the south end at the Blue Valley District Activity Complex as their team switched ends, which was no small feat, considering the stands were nearly full to begin with.
Sometimes it just takes a little perseverance.
For the better part of a couple of decades, the teams in the Kansas City Kansas League have been more of a punch line than legitimate high school football powers.
Now, Wyandotte has clinched its first KCK League title since the Reagan administration and takes a 5-1 mark into district play. And Washington (3-3) heads into district with their heads held high, knowing they were just a couple of plays away from knocking off the Bulldogs.
And the fans are turning out. And not only turning out, but letting their voices and cheers be heard.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard Washington’s stadium as loud as it was last week.
“I haven’t seen so much red being worn around school,” Wyandotte head coach Eddie Brown said. “It’s amazing. The community believes in these kids and it’s starting to show.
“You know that old saying, ‘It takes the village to raise the kids?’ Well that’s very appropriate here.”
The Bulldog faithful have been pouring into the stands both at home and on the road like they did Friday night to watch their team knock off Washington and claim their first KCK League title in 25 years.
“We’ve never had this kind of support,” Brown added. “It’s a big deal.”
Bulldog quarterback Dimonic Roden-McKinzy spent the last two years at Class 2 University Academy in Missouri and now is leading Wyandotte into the Kansas Class 6A district playoffs next week.
“Word is getting out about Wyandotte,” he said. “And the fans are starting to show their support. It’s really cool.”
Five years ago, the PA announcer at Washington began the increasingly popular, “That’s good enough for a Wildcat… first down,” cheer. For a while it fell on deaf ears.
As Wyandotte and Washington squared off last Friday night, he was sticking his chest out a bit more than usual from his perch atop the pressbox.
“It’s taken five years, but they’ve finally caught on,” he announced to the group assembled in the pressbox with a grin from ear to ear.
And it’s due mostly to the fact that there were fans around to care about a Wildcat first down. A decade ago, you’d be lucky to see a smattering of scarlet and black — even at a Washington home game.
From the cities with three or four high school football teams to the smaller class one-school towns that dot the metro area, the fans seem to be the same.
They are passionate. They are knowledgeable. And most importantly, they show up week after week, night after night, to support their teams. Even if that means sometimes they have to get there a few hours early.