By Eric Wade
Nevada Daily Mail
With the football playoffs quickly approaching, the Nevada High School athletic department and many other school officials have organized a number of spirit activities this week surrounded the Tigers' first playoff game that is scheduled for Thursday evening against Warrensburg.
The first of these activities is slated for this evening when the Fired Up pep rally and bonfire is set to ignite at the football practice field on the campus at Nevada High School. The pep rally will be open to anyone in the community who wishes to attend and will feature a speech from Tigers head coach Wes Beachler, as well as a performance by the Nevada Tiger Pride Marching Band.
The rally is slated to begin at approximately 8 p.m., following the conclusion of parent-teacher conferences, on the south side of the Logan Field practice area and will include a bonfire, if approval can be obtained from the Nevada Fire Department. That approval is contingent on the weather conditions which have left Nevada High School athletic director Kevin McKinley "skeptical" that it will be granted since the National Weather Service is forecasting wind gusts up to 30 mph today and 24 mph tonight.
"We have to wait until literally until minutes before we light the match and get the OK from the Nevada Fire Department, but if there's excessive wind, they'll probably deny it and it will simply be the pep rally and that's it, without the bonfire," McKinley said.
If that approval is given by the fire department, McKinley and Nevada Tigers football manager Billy Evans will light the bonfire at the conclusion of Beachler's speech. If the fire is denied, McKinley will conclude the pep rally with a reminder of the other events planned for Thursday.
On top of the pep rally and possible bonfire, the Tigers are going to be hosting their seventh home game of the season Thursday night against Warrensburg that will be highlighted by Alumni Appreciation Night.
"There's an old saying in coaching and education that every good idea is stolen from a thief. I was at Arrowhead a few weeks back and they had their alumni weekend and I thought, 'Wouldn't that be a neat deal to somehow do that here in Nevada?' Well, since we're playing our seventh home game, then that allowed (the event to happen)," Mckinley said.
"This is the thing I'm excited about the most, other than the game, is I put out a feeler starting last week to former football players, former managers of the teams, former coaches of the teams, former coaches of the teams, even cheerleaders to sign up and participate in what's called the Nevada High School Football Alumni Appreciation Night."
Alumni Appreciation Night will begin with refreshments and an opportunity for those involved to look through old yearbooks and reminisce about their high school days in the Nevada High School cafeteria before concluding with free admission to the game and introductions prior to kickoff.
"It serves two purposes," McKinley said of the event. "To say 'thank you' for those people that have worn the Crimson and Gray and been a part of our football program and still follow it and support it and the second half of it, as important, is right when Coach McNeley, our PA announcer gets done introducing everybody, I'm going to take those 40-50 people, hopefully more, go over and they will form part of the tunnel, along with parents and our cheerleaders and band that the kids can run out to."
Currently, the list of known participants includes 42 former Nevada High School football players, coaches and cheerleaders -- with hopefully more to come -- and spans 44 years from 1962-2006. Interested participants are encouraged to sign up and take part in the event right up until the alumni are introduced prior to Thursday's game.
"I want our kids to get a sense of just how deep the football tradition is within the community," McKinley said.
When all of those events are finished, the Nevada Tigers will take to Logan Field in the first game of a new playoff system devised by officials at the Missouri State High School Activities Association. The Tigers will enter the playoffs riding a six-game winning streak and coming off of their best season since 1998.
In contrast to the old system in which Weeks 8-10 of the regular season were district games and decided which two teams made it to the playoffs, this system starts the state playoff tournament in Week 10 with every team from every district in the state involved. Starting this week, it's still a similar process to the former state playoffs in which if a team loses once, the season is over, but in order to become a district champion, each team is required to win three games and only the champion moves on to continue in the playoffs.
McKinley said from his perspective that he likes the new system in many ways, but it has both its ups and downs. The new system uses a points format somewhat similar to the one that was used in the 1970s during the heyday of Nevada football, awarding 10 points for a regulation time loss, 15 for an overtime loss and 20 for a win, with a 10-point bonus for each class a school plays above their own and overall standings are determined by point totals that are calculated by dividing the total points each team has earned by the number of games played.
"For Nevada, there's both good and bad to it," he said. "The good to it is it creates a situation where, starting in Week 10, everybody's got a chance to become the District Champion, whereas under the old system, your games eight, nine and 10 determined that.
"The best thing to explain to people is that it resembles much like a basketball district tournament, or a baseball district tournament, or volleyball, like our other team sports where there is, in this case, an eight-team bracket with one playing eight, two playing seven and so on, and as long as you when, you keep going. And now, there is a true District Champion, whereas in the past, I don't think that was emphasized as much."
Nevada begins the Class 4, District 7 tournament as the top seed and will play its first game on Thursday at 7 p.m., and the winner of that contest will on to play either Harrisonville or Grandview on Oct. 31, with chance to play for the district championship on the line. Following the three-game district tournaments, all remaining teams will continue their playoff runs in the state quarterfinals, just two games away from the championship.