Kewpies lose to Jefferson City, 33-30
COLUMBIA — Escaped smoke wafts from the mammoth-sized grill near the Hickman High School football field. More than 30 hot dogs, hamburgers, slices of venison and sausage links sizzle on its surface.
The crowd of tailgaters is hungry. They want their food.
They also want a win.
A victory over rival Jefferson City and a chance to become district champs and advance to the quarterfinals in Class 6 is at stake for the Hickman High School football team. This is the 103rd year of the rivalry.
The more than 80 tailgaters know the importance of the rivalry and the game.
“It’s like MU and KU,” Ross Herman said as he flipped the burgers on his grill. His wife Shelly is an ’83 graduate of Hickman. When they married in 1990, Herman’s allegiance to Hickman was never an issue.
“From then on, I had no choice,” Herman said.
What makes the rivalry so great?
“Good coaching, good bloodlines and a big ol’ history,” Herman said.
These bloodlines are perhaps what the fans of Hickman take the most seriously.
It’s why two-year-old Karma Vaughn runs around amid the tailgaters’ legs wearing a shirt that says “Once a Kewpie, always a Kewpie.”
Marilyn Miller, whose son is a junior on the team, watched her brother play for Hickman from 1972 to 1973. Her mother graduated from Hickman in 1946. She knows history.
“I’m a lifer here. Once you’re a Kewpie, you’re always a Kewpie,” she said with pride.
Miller enjoys the rivalry football game because of the team spirit that everyone shows. Her bright purple Hickman shirt is her way of expressing this spirit.
Joe Duncan has been a Hickman fan for as long as he can remember. He thinks high school football is a nice change from what he considers the mechanical style of the NFL.
“It’s a little more refreshing,” Duncan said. “Anything can happen.”
There’s also a contagious enthusiasm among the fans because they know many of the athletes playing, Duncan said.
For Mike Richardson, the Hickman and Jefferson City game is a great way to support the community and football team.
It’s also about the “braggin’ rights,” Richardson said.
Richardson has brought his son to the game to show him what playing for Hickman will soon be like.
Mike Richardson Jr. is a husky eighth-grader who cannot wait to join the Hickman football team next year.
“I’m looking forward to the Friday night lights,” Richardson said, grinning.
Although Hickman lost 30 to 33, its fans will be here next year watching their shadows lengthen under these lights amid the smoke of the grills.
Because as we all know, seasons change, but being a Kewpie does not.