December 1, 2002 at 12:00 AM CST - Updated June 15 at 11:51 PM
Hundreds of Heartland football fans made their way to St. Louis on Saturday afternoon, to watch the Hayti Indians play their biggest game in nearly twenty years.
The Hayti High School team battled the Adrian Black Hawks for the Class 1-A title.It was the first time Hayti has played for the championship since 1984.And even though Adrian won the game by a score of 35-22, the hundreds of Hayti fans who watched the game at the Edward Jones Dome say they couldn't be more proud of what their team has accomplished.
“I drove fourteen hours straight, no sleep, just driving,” says William Shaw of his trip to the dome.Shaw traveled all the way from Syracuse, New York to watch the game, and in particular, the Hayti player wearing number twenty.“That’s my son, William Moore,” Shaw proudly explained as the game got underway.“I told him that if he made it to the dome in the state championship game that I would come down here from New York to watch him play.”For Shaw, just getting to see his son run the ball 59-yards on the Rams’ home turf was worth the trip.“I'm just happy to be here,” he beamed.“I'm just happy to see my son make it to the championship game!”
Everyone in the stands had their own reason for making the trip and showing their Hayti spirit.“I came to support one of my good friends that I go to church with,” said Wade Howell of Steele, Missouri.Sandra Silas brought her own support group from the St. Louis area.“I’m originally from Hayti, but I've been gone for about 25 years,” she explained.“When I heard that they were coming out here to play for state, I called everyone I knew that was originally from Hayti, so we could give them even more support.”Edwin Cooper remembered the last time his hometown team played for the championship.“Hayti came close and won second place in Kansas City about eighteen years ago.I was there then and I’m here now.”
There were also some fans you wouldn't expect to see, like a group of Portageville High School athletes, normally Hayti rivals.“We came to support them,” said Drew Underwood.“They're from the Bootheel, so whatever we can do to help.”
Some fans cheered loudly, while others lent silent support. But no matter what their style, they all agreed on one thing. Win or lose, the players they came out to see would definitely go home as champions.“It's great for the school and the community,” said Darion Thomas of Hayti.“We need this. This will keep our children out of trouble and show them positive things to get involved in.”Eric Wiseman, of Steele, just looked around the dome and smiled.“It was worth the trip,” he declared.“This atmosphere is just incredible right now.It makes you want to play football.”