CUNNINGHAM, Kan. It has been almost five years since Cunningham high school hosted a football game at home. Not because the school didn’t have athletes, or lacking town support, there just wasn’t an opportunity for success in 11-man football or 8-man football. Now, Cunningham will bring back the Friday night lights.
“It has been the talk of the town this summer, especially here lately,” said Cunningham Athletic Director Bart Ricke. Ricke says the decision to bring back football was one the town had been wanting for years, and the support after the decision was made to do so shows. The field where the Wildcats will host their home games has been given a facelift courtesy of the people living in Cunningham. The bleachers were built by a local welder, the new press box was built by a local contractor, and even the scoreboard was donated by a local business and memorial fund.
The support of the town for the new football team has been the most exciting aspect of the change according to head coach Lance McGuire.
“Nobody pointed fingers or said, let’s wait to get this done. It was I can do this, I will meet you at this time to do that,” McGuire said.
Cunningham has been without a football team since 2014. Since then, players have been a part of the Kingman football team, just driving 18 miles east for a chance to play, some didn’t even play at all.
“I haven't played since junior high when we lost it,” said Skylar Hennessee, a Cunningham junior. “I was going to go out for cross country but being able to say I play high school football is pretty great," he explained.
The Wildcats return 12 players this fall, more than enough for their new challenge of 6-man football. Cunningham is the twelfth school in the state to trim to the 6-man game, a trend seen in some smaller towns in Kansas.
"It was pretty much unanimous,” added Daylen Schnittker, also a junior at Cunningham. “We all thought, we want football back, even if it's six man, we don't care," he said.
Coach McGuire says the change to 6-man has been a challenge to adapt to but adds that his players’ ability to work hard has eased the learning curve.
"I have a lot of young guys making silly mistakes but we're getting better all the time. I am learning and I'm growing but I am not running for the mistakes like they are," he said.
This Friday will be a special moment, not only for the team but the town behind it. The Wildcats plan to bring back old traditions as they seek to get their first win as the newest addition to 6-man football in Kansas.
"I think it will be electric, I think the stands will be full and alot of people are excited to watch this happen," explained McGuire.