Commentary: Let's welcome our new Friday neighbors, the WHS Tigers

Written by Muleskinner Staff


Sports Editor

(Muleskinner) — This year, Friday night football visits the Central Missouri campus. Should residents at The Crossing — South at Holden hear commotion in their backyard — Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field — do not be alarmed. No matter the resemblance, these are no alley cats. They are the Warrensburg Tigers.

My Tigers are visiting for a season as their field undergoes track renovations. Warrensburg’s rich football history dates back to the late 1800s when the town’s founder, Martin Warren, Old Drum and his merchant friend John Evans, met each beautiful autumn Friday evening to drink whiskey, admire the trees and not think about football one bit. Things changed by the time I attended Warrensburg High, but not by much.

The Tigers are led by their firecracker head coach Scott Grinde, a former Central Missouri football assistant and all-around good guy. He transitioned into the lead role in 2010, replacing Wiley Meade who now coaches at Liberty. Where Meade emphasized effort — ”It takes 212 degrees to turn water to gas! One degree less and it’s just hot water!” — Grinde emphasized energy.

Quietly observing busy lunch tables by day, he loudly pleaded over the intercom for students to cheer “like their hair was on fire,” and promised his team would play “like their hair was on fire” as we left school. The last time I interviewed him, he wore an elastic, flame-colored skullcap so that his hair looked like it was on fire.

As a reader, truth is hard to pin down. You should believe about half of what you read. I will get facts wrong and print flat-out lies. I’ve written three in this column alone. But stories of Grinde’s enthusiasm are genuine, all-American truth.

Wins, however, have been just as elusive as facts. Warrensburg opened the 2014 season with a 14-7 victory over Excelsior Springs. It was their first win in two seasons. Seriously! As soon as I graduated, the team lost 20 games in two years. Warrensburg finished 3-7 last season after Grain Valley discharged them from the postseason 32-6.

Playing at Walton Stadium is a nice break for a program on the comeback. However, Warrensburg may only have the second best field in their district. Their rivals, Sedalia Smith-Cotton, are getting used to a $7 million complex, and that place is nice. But so what? LaVance Taylor played here, and he was a Chief.

I never played football for the Tigers, but I still have my memories as a fan. Anytime we beat Sedalia was great. Clinton, too. I once saw TJ White, the same national champion guard for Mules basketball, terrorize my boys in maroon while quarterback of O’Hara. There’s still video of the whipping on Hudl.

While I will cherish those moments forever, this year’s Tigers have a chance to forge their own story. The backdrop of the Crossing should be the slickest in the MIAA. Brighter lights, better surface, nicer locker rooms, and perhaps some new fans should make for an interesting season for an otherwise average football program. I’m not saying root like your hair’s on fire, but if you happen to see them playing one of these weekends, please go easy on my boys. Go Tigers.