Joanna Chadwick: A vote for combining football championship game sites

11/26/2011 12:00 AM

11/26/2011 8:36 AM

In 1993, Cessna Stadium hosted three state football championships — Classes 4A, 3A and 2-1A.

"I really liked it," said Jeff Boone, who played for Collegiate in the 3A title game. "We hung out for one of the games and watched it as a team, and then we had to get ready to play.

"I liked the environment, the atmosphere and getting all the high school football fans there."

The only site that still holds two state title games is Newton, which plays host to both 8-Man championships. The last 11-man title games held at the same site were in 2003, when Classes 5A and 6A were at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.

I often hear fans lament that the Kansas State High School Activities Association splits up title games around the state.

On Saturday, Class 6A is at Washburn, 5A at Emporia State, 4A at Salina Central, 3A at Hutchinson and 2-1A at Fort Hays State.

Those locations offer intimate feels and quality stadiums. But how nice would it be to watch Olathe South play Heights and then watch Hutchinson play Blue Valley — at the same site?

That's how it used to be. While 4A was usually on its own, 3A and 2-1A were together, 5A and 6A together.

Rose Hill coach Greg Slade suggested having all the state championships in Topeka and utilizing Washburn and Hummer Park.

Those stadiums would be perfect because they aren't so big that the place seems empty with a bigger-than-usual high school crowd.

Holton coach Brooks Barta wrote in an e-mail that it would be ideal to play the championships at Wichita State over two days — as long as Cessna Stadium got artificial turf.

Both ideas have merit.

In a survey of about 60 football coaches across the state, 33 percent responded that they would like to see all the state title games at one site.

Nearly 39 percent wanted to return to two championship games at one site.

"As a football fan, I think that would be a great experience to go see different levels of football," said South coach Cory Brack, who was one of the 39 percent. "If they were all at one site, holy cow. It would be an awesome day to spend with family, friends and fellow coaches."

Nearly 28 percent of those surveyed prefer the current system.

Bill Messamore, who recently resigned as Collegiate's coach, said he likes separate sites because "you're the only game in town."

Hutchinson's Randy Dreiling wrote that he'd like more games at one site, but if you're playing in the game, he said, it's better to have just one.

There is a level of chaos when multiple games are played at a single stadium.

Teams are sharing locker rooms, so maybe a team has to meet in another place at halftime because the next game's team is already in there. Or teams have to change away from the stadium and bus to the field.

The worst part about having more than one game at a single site could be in the postgame.

"It's a big emotional event for a state championship game," said Gary Musselman, executive director of the KSHSAA. "I've been the guy on the football field, trying to get the people off the field whose game is just over. They've got their trophy, their pictures, but we've got two other teams coming out.

"They're anxious, 'Hurry up and get off here, we need the field to warm up.' It's not a good situation."

Musselman said he hasn't heard complaints about the current system. And unless a new plan comes from the schools and is approved, no change will take place.

Until then, I'll be a football fan enjoying one state championship game.

***

Saturday's predictions:

All games 1 p.m.

6A at Yager Stadium, Topeka: Heights over Olathe South

5A at Welch Stadium, Emporia: Hutchinson over Blue Valley

4A at Salina District Stadium: Rose Hill over Eudora

3A at Gowans Stadium, Hutchinson: Conway Springs over Silver Lake

2-1A at Lewis Field, Hays: Centralia over LaCrosse

About Joanna Chadwick

Joanna writes about high school sports, which she has covered since 1996, shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri. Chadwick, who interned at the Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated before coming to The Eagle, has followed sports since she was a child growing up in Minnesota. Sadly, she's still a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins.

Contact Joanna at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com.

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