They have their hardware: 90-plus individually tailored rings and a team trophy.
They have their tributes: A banner hangs in the gym, and a team poster greets visitors at the entrance to the school commons.
But members of the state champion Hickman football team are in store for another honor tonight: Taking the field to the cheers of their home fans.
Hickman’s home opener against Parkway South will be the first game at Hickman Field since the Kewpies knocked off DeSmet in last year’s state Class 6 quarterfinals.
“It feels awful good to get off those yellow buses and play in front of the home folks,” coach Gregg Nesbitt said.
Although the Kewpies are excited to kick off their home schedule, the focus is on rebounding from last week’s loss to Rockhurst.
“It’ll be interesting to see how our kids bounce back,” Nesbitt said.
The Kewpies have actually fared better on the road the past few seasons, thanks mostly to a perfect 7-0 mark last year away from Hickman Field. But the team has enjoyed success at home as well, posting winning records every year since 1998 and winning six of its past seven home openers.
But if the Kewpies’ success at home has been steady, fan support has been a staple during Nesbitt’s tenure.
“We’ve had good support for the 12 or 13 years I’ve been here,” Nesbitt said.
Kewpie fans proved their support last year when their team played on the biggest stage, the state championship game in St. Louis. Nesbitt estimates 12,000 to 15,000 fans were cheering for the Kewpies.
That support was reaffirmed after the season, when a group of alumni took it upon themselves to raise the money to purchase championship rings for the entire team. The community’s donations ensured all players and coaches received rings.
“I thought it was a nice gesture on their part,” Nesbitt said of the community’s contributions, “and certainly it’ll be a nice memento for the kids, and coaches for that matter, 20 or 30 years from now.”
Junior wideout Byron Bundy expects similar fan support this season, although “last week didn’t help a lot,” Bundy said, referring to last week’s loss.
The Kewpie baseball team will also receive its state championship rings tonight during a halftime.