LUCAS – By 12:30 p.m. Friday, seemingly the entire village of Lucas had gathered on Main Street.
The charter bus carrying the state-bound high school football team was scheduled to roll through any minute, but the crowd sick from orange-and-black fever couldn’t wait any longer.
GALLERY: Lucas Cubs state title game send-off
The Lucas High School football team received a rowdy send-off on Friday afternoon, as community members gathered downtown to watch the Cubs depart for Canton to play in the Div. VII state championship game on Saturday. The team was escorted out of town by local law enforcement, as well as a parade of community members driving tractors and combines. People of all ages gathered on Main Street to cheer on the team as it left on a charter bus.
They had to let it out somehow.
“WE ARE!” a woman on one side of Main Street yelled.
Silence consumed the village. Then, a response.
“LUCAS!!” the other side fired back.
A verbal volley ensued, growing louder by the turn, ending with a celebratory hoorah and a chorus of cowbells. The Lucas community, prepared to watch its high school football team make its first state championship appearance, was bursting with pride. It was only a matter of time before the signature chant rang out.
“WE ARE!” the chant began again.
Lucas (12-2) will play 10-time state champion Marion Local (12-2) on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Div. VII state title game. The Cubs were escorted out of town Friday by local law enforcement, as well as a parade of community members driving tractors and combines.
The procession was loud and proud, as people of all ages gathered on Main Street to cheer the team on.
Beatrice Schaad, 90, arrived early with her friend, Suzie Marcucci, 82. The two set up lawn chairs near the intersection of Main Street and Moore Street, and bundled up to watch the team roll through.
Schaad, a 1947 Lucas High School graduate, said she’s followed the team’s playoff run from the beginning. As someone who’s lived in the village her whole life, she called the experience “wonderful.”
“It’s a small town and everybody is for the team, so you can see that,” said Schaad, draped in a coat and several blankets, 30 minutes early to Friday’s send-off. “We’re all very proud of them, and we just want to cheer them on.”
Back when Schaad went to Lucas, the high school did not have a football team. Her son, Jeff Logsdon, starred on the basketball team years later.
Still, Schaad said she feels somewhat attached to this year's state-bound group. Regardless of the outcome Saturday, she knows the community will have the team’s back.
“Whether they win or not, we’re very proud of them,” she said with a smile.
At the intersection of Main Street and Union Street, one family brought four generations to cheer on the Cubs.
Heidi Kunz, the mother of Lucas athletic director Taylor Iceman, stood alongside her mother, her children, and her grandchildren. They took turns hoisting a handmade “Cub Nation” sign as the team’s charter bus passed by.
“It’s just great,” Kunz said. “We all went to Lucas.”
When asked about her family, Kunz gladly issued a footnote. In Lucas, she said, ‘family’ and ‘community’ are interchangeable.
“All of us are just one big family,” said Kunz, choking up. “When you say how many people are here from my family – we’re all family. Really. As you can tell, I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s awesome.”
Kunz, a 1984 Lucas graduate, said the Cubs’ playoff run has impacted all corners of the community. It’s given former Cubs something to be proud of, and it’s given future Cubs something to aspire to.
“Somebody was leaving our game the other night and they heard the mom telling the little boy, ‘See, that’s what it’s like to be on the Lucas Cubs football team,’” Kunz said. “That says it all, it really does.”
Before the team rolled down Main Street on Friday, Kunz said a Mansfield Senior parent approached her. She'd come to Lucas that afternoon to cheer on the Cubs as they left for Canton.
That kind of support, Kunz said, has been overwhelming this week.
“We put her out there and she was cheering for us, too,” Kunz said. “The whole Senior High and Lucas thing has just been so great. It’s so much more than football, it really is.”
The support for Lucas this postseason hasn’t been confined to Richland County, either. One couple, Cary and Heidi Hart, traveled from South Carolina to support the Cubs this weekend. Heidi, a 1988 Lucas graduate, held a hand-made sign as she stood downtown on Friday:
600 miles to watch our team live the dream.
“It’s awesome,” Heidi said. “I grew up in this community, and to watch these guys succeed, it’s just… it’s emotional.”
Heidi and Cary flew to Ohio this week to watch their alma maters play for state titles. Cary is a 1982 Malabar High School graduate, and he’s looking forward to watching Mansfield Senior in the Div. III state championship game on Friday afternoon.
“We’re looking for two state championships by the time we head back to the south,” Heidi said with a smile.
The couple has been following Richland County’s two state-bound teams throughout the postseason, watching on TV from their South Carolina home. Last week, Cary and Heidi became internet sensations for their playoff win reactions.
On Friday, the couple returned to Richland County – and Heidi’s hometown – to cheer on the Cubs as they left for Canton. Heidi beamed as she hugged longtime community members before the procession began.
600 miles? Well worth it, she said.
“It’s just great for the community,” Heidi said, “and we’re thrilled that we get to be a part of it.”