Some families spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping, starting to decorate for the holidays, and maybe even watching a little football on television.
The families and fans of the Hickman High School football team will spend today watching their team battle for the state title.
“Nobody is sleeping at our house,” said Nikki Harper, mother of Luke Harper. “We’re very excited.”
Hickman football is looking forward to a weekend of celebration as the pay-off for months of hard work on and off the field for the players and behind-the-scenes efforts from the Touchdown Club.
“These guys have worked so hard,” said Nancy Roper, mother of Mike Roper. “Everybody’s worked so hard to get them to this point.”
Nancy Roper and her husband Rod are co-presidents of the Touchdown Club, a parent and fan group that supports the Hickman team. The club puts countless hours into cooking food for team dinners on Thursday nights, packing boxed lunches for the bus to away games and fund raising for the team. Club members will be the first to tell you that Hickman football is more than a team, it’s a family.
“Because that’s just what you do,” Roper said. “It’s Hickman football.”
This year’s football family is a tight-knit group.
Rhonda Jackson, mother of Cedric Alvis, said the boys have been on several teams in several sports together, which brings both the parents and the players closer together.
“We’ve known a lot of the boys for a long time so I’m happy for all of them, not just Cedric,” Jackson said.
The Hickman parents and Touchdown Club members see all the players on the team as their “boys,” not just their own sons.
“Friday night there were more hugs to parents that weren’t their own,” Roper said.
Hugs aren’t the only rewards for these parents who say the kids on the team make their countless hours worthwhile.
“Just seeing the group of guys that we’ve seen grow up together stick together as a team and just the fact that they’ve looked out for each
other and taken care of each other,” Ed Schumacher, father of Joe Schumacher said. “They’ll still do that, and they’ll do that all through Friday. That’s been the best thing out of all of this for us.”
Tonight, Hickman will be supported by not only the parents of the players, but other relatives, parents of former players and longtime Hickman fans.
Blake Tekotte’s mother, Cheryl Tekotte, is in charge of organizing the team dinners for the Touchdown Club, and Blake’s 82-year-old grandmother helps out with the food preparation. Cheryl Tekotte said it was her in-laws’ attachment to Hickman that made her family Kewpie fans even before Blake started playing for the team.
“My in-laws were Kewpies,” Cheryl Tekotte said. “…I guess we’re converted Kewpies.”
The entire Geiger family supports Alex Geiger, including both grandparents and his aunts and uncles. They all help cook the team dinners, and they come to nearly every game.
“Oh yeah, moms, dads, grandmas, granddads, if they’re within driving distance, they show up,” Dave Geiger said. “We’ve always been a pretty tight-knit group, and it just kind of came natural. Once they found out that we were involved and that their grandson was involved in the team, all the rest of it just fell into place.”
Geiger said that his family bought 20 tickets to the big game and will be traveling together. Jackson said 30 members of Alvis’s family and friends will be in attendance.
Several other Hickman parents said their entire families will travel from the Thanksgiving table to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Ed Schumacher said his family is traveling from Kansas City to see his son play.
“We’ve gone to see our nephews play and win in the state championship,” Ed Schumacher said. “So now it’s their turn to go and watch him play.”
The families say they will caravan together to St. Louis, and members of the Touchdown Club plan to get together before the game as they have for most of the season, usually during the tailgate parties organized by the club.
“It’s really to help the parents stay relaxed before the game,” Harper said. “We get kind of uptight and worried before the game. We get to be really good friends with those parents, parents whose kids are going through the same things. We have a special time. We share the great times and the not-so great times.”
Harper said the parents usually make predictions of what will happen during the game For tonight’s championship, the parents are hoping for a great game to be the culmination of an outstanding season.
“I think they’re being overlooked, because they tend to be small, but they have a big heart,” Jackson said. “I’m hoping that Friday they are able to show that and people will see that these boys are really talented. … I pray that they are able to prove to a lot of people that they can do it.”
If the Kewpies do manage a victory and a state championship, the parents and the loyal fans will be on the field celebrating with them.
“We’re just a bunch of parents who really support a bunch of kids who deserve to be supported,” Roper said.