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Statesman and Pioneers: More than 100 years of football rivalry

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Posted: Friday, November 19, 2010 10:12 am

As my toes stiffened in the cold and the cheerleaders finished 48 high kicks, I marveled at the spirited fans ringing cow bells, the sea of red sweatshirts and pom-poms and the Lodi High quarterback and players who were dominating McNair with touchdown after touchdown.

I went to my first high school football game in Lodi on Thursday, and it brought me back to many nights in Kirkwood, Missouri standing in the freezing cold, clutching my hot chocolate with my mittened hands and yelling for the Pioneers.

I thought it would be fun to share my high school tradition from back home, considering the long standing rivalry between Lodi and Tokay.

In Kirkwood, there is one main enemy: the elistest Webster Statesmen. As the Pioneers, a symbol of American exploration, we take offense that a team would shun Americana for a top hat and monocle.

Almost every year since 1907, the Pioneers and Statesmen have squared off at High Noon at either the Kirkwood or Webster stadium. It is considered the oldest rivalry West of the Mississippi, and both Kirkwood and Webster fans feel quite a bit of pride while recounting the history.

During Thanksgiving week, it might as well be a full-blown holiday at school. Students stay after class decorating hallways that include everything from streamers to murals to cars in the Senior Hallway.

There is Tacky Day, where all the students wear Webster's orange and black colors to school - which is probably part of the reason I still cringe when I see Giants fans.

It is followed by Spirit Day where students proudly display as much red and white clothing as possible while going to a pep rally in the afternoon.

On Wednesday, there is a chili cookoff and a student and alumni pep rally complete with a huge bonfire that burns for hours after the bands and cheerleaders have headed home.

And this is all before the game.

On Thanksgiving, families plan their meals for 4 or 5 p.m. instead of the traditional noon eating time. Since we live two blocks from the high school, we wait to go anywhere when the game is at home until all of the carfuls of people have streamed out of the stadium and one team drives by victorious, while ringing the Frisco Bell. The bell entered the fray in 1952, and the winning team gets to display it for the year. The losing team gets to display an ugly brown jug.

The tradition has been featured as a spread in Sports Illustrated, on ESPN and all of the local newspapers and TV stations show up to record the event every year.

The last one I attended was in 2007, the 100 year anniversary, where they named the top 100 players to ever play in the historic game. That list included Jeremy Maclin, who went on to play for the Missouri Tigers. Now, he is a football wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, and this week he recorded a message wishing the Kirkwood Pioneers good luck.

This year, Turkey Day will come a little early for Kirkwood and Webster. David Kvidahl of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described it as the apocalypse because the two teams will face each other on a day that doesn't involve massive amounts of Turkey consumption.

Kirkwood and Webster will play tonight at the Kirkwood field with the winner heading to the Class 5 state championship game at the Edward Jones Dome. Webster has four state titles, and my Pioneers have zero, depite leading in Turkey Day wins.

I imagine students will show up by the thousands, and there will be a similar festive atmosphere. But it is never quite the same as watching the players take the field in the middle of the day on Thanksgiving and knowing the game is part of history.