By BRITTANY DUNCAN
It’s 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27, at Faurot Field and still the lines for tickets stretch back 20 people. With seven minutes left until the Providence Bowl kickoff game between Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools, fans smeared in purple, yellow and green paint continue to pour into the stands.
It’s a rivalry that spans decades, and Hickman fans have shown up ready to see their team redeem themselves from last year’s game in which they suffered a heartbreaking 26-0 loss.
Three loyal Hickman fans took the time to share their Kewpie pride and offer thoughts on the night’s events.
It’s hard to miss Michael Pipes leaning over a railing at the top of the stands. His appearance is not unlike any of the other thousands of fans on the Hickman side of the stadium, wearing a backward Hickman ball cap and purple “Class of ‘84” T-shirt, but his voice booms clearly above the steady roar of the Kewpie crowd.
“Sack, sack, sack!” cries Pipes as Rock Bridge quarterback Sheldon Gerau searches for a teammate to pass to.
Pipes was born and raised in Columbia and hasn’t missed the rival game in more than five years. He is there not only to support his old high school but his younger cousin, defensive tackle and No. 69 for the Kewpies, Terrance Williams.
“Write this,” says a passionate Pipes. “The Kewpies are overdue to win. Overdue. I predict a 28-7 victory over Rock Bridge tonight.”
Pipes pauses to sing “Ice, Ice, Baby” with the band, swaying side to side and belting out altered lyrics, “Mike, Mike, Baby.”
When asked what sets a Kewpie apart from a Bruin, Pipes answers without hesitation, “There are millions of Bruins, but only one Kewpie.”
Marielle Carlos sits on the brick barrier between the crowd and the field, her legs dangling over the side and bouncing slightly with the marching band’s halftime performance. She wears the “Kewps” cheerleading uniform and has a toothy smile; her perfectly poofed hair is tied up with a purple ribbon. Carlos is happy to be a part of the excitement even though her team is down 17 points at the half.
At 15, Carlos is a sophomore at Hickman. Raised in Columbia, Carlos hopes to go to MU and continue cheering into her college days.
She is a little on the shy side and, unlike her boisterous painted classmates in the stands, too nice to get involved in the verbal bashing of her rival team. She giggles at the thought of defending Hickman as the better school. Her opinion is a humble one: “Hickman has great teachers and a variety of students. There are many different cultures at my school. It’s just really cool.”
Denise Fernandez, sitting in the middle of the stands, isn’t as reserved. “We’re the better school,” Fernandez boasts. “Of course, I’m partial.”
Fernandez works in the main office at Hickman and doesn’t hold back when getting ready for the big game. Everything she has on lets people know where her loyalties lie, from her “Hickman Staff” T-shirt all the way down to her purple flip-flops and violet toenail polish.
“Hickman has great kids. They are hardworking, committed, and every day I enjoy working with them.” Fernandez says. “It’s such a diverse school. There is a place for everyone there.”
Although Hickman hasn’t scored by halftime, a great comeback is on the way. The Kewpies don’t win, but they lose by only four points this year, 24-20.
As the team she loves leaves the field, Fernandez absentmindedly reaches into her popcorn bucket. “Always have hope,” she says.