By Chance Chamberlain
Friday nights in Harrisonville mean one thing, Wildcats football, and to Kevin Thomas who is celebrating his 20th season announcing for the team, it means he gets to create an experience for the kids on the field and their families in the stands. Thomas said the experience is what it is all about.
“We try to build an experience in the booth for everybody who attends the games at Memorial Stadium. The game should not be about one piece of the whole puzzle and it takes the spotters and the music and the band and the crowd to create the experience of a Friday night football game.
“We like to see what we do in the booth as being part of the battle within a war happening on the field and I could not be as successful as I have been without the help of every single person involved in the experience of the game,” he said.
Thomas began his service to the Harrisonville Wildcats varsity football team in 2001 when the Athletic Booster Club appointed him to be the announcer for all home games, but his service to the community of Harrisonville began more than a decade prior to his appointment.
Thomas said, “I graduated from what is now known as the University of Central Missouri in 1988 with a degree in broadcasting and film. Shortly after, I began announcing youth football for the Cass County Junior Athletic Association (CCJA) out of the back of a pickup truck. Once we established that I would announce all the games, we built a press box and I served the CCJA for three years.
“After a while, I met with the school and asked to announce eighth grade, freshman and junior varsity football because they had nobody to create the experience for them. I did those games for 10 years before I was given the opportunity to announce varsity games in 2001,” he said.
In just his third season with the school, Thomas experienced state titles and playoff runs during the Fred Bouchard era of Harrisonville football. Thomas credits Bouchard with changing the culture for Wildcats football and said he raised the bar for coaches and players to come.
“We rode the wave of success that Bouchard had in his tenure with the team in the 2000’s and I believe we saw a culture change from the ground up during that time. Bouchard demanded a sense of organization from his team as well as every facet of the game and we sort of elevated our performance in the booth to meet his intensity,” he said.
Thomas added, “During the Bouchard era we also implemented the ‘Monday Night Football’ theme into the pregame presentation to enhance the experience within the stadium. It was kind of that final thing before kickoff to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in excitement for the game about to take place. That is something we still do to this day because the kids like that feeling so much.”
Throughout the years, Thomas has announced some of the biggest games in school history from the booth above Memorial Stadium and he credits his teams throughout the years for his success on the mic.
“When we first started out, my team consisted of me and Richard and Laura Lee Cornell in the booth and we called some fantastic games together. Then, for a while I announced games with Paul Saffell as my spotter, but he moved up to Raymore and now I have a new team,” he said. “I call games with Victor Blaine and Brett Jones now and it is pretty cool because we are three guys that have given more community service to Harrisonville football and to the community than most people and that is really what it is all about, the community service.”
Thomas said he has always been about the kids and the community first and that he does not know when the end of the road will be, but he hopes that his successor can raise the bar even higher for the next generation of Wildcats.
“I have always been really big on community and I feel like I am really giving to the community when I can hear how loud Memorial Stadium gets when the team is playing good football. I believe that everybody should give to the community in which they live in even if they cannot give any monetary donations,” he said. “I just hope that I raised the bar enough for the next guy who takes my spot when I am done. I honestly do not know when that will be because I still love coming to the stadium to call games, but I do hope that the next person up can continue to create the best experience for the kids and their families.”
Thomas was recognized for his service to the team in 2016 by the MSHSAA Executive Board for broadcasting and he said it was a highlight of his career.
“When I was awarded in 2016 for my broadcasting, it was really a cool experience. The award was voted on by all the coaches and athletic directors in the area and I won. That was positive affirmation that other schools appreciated what we do in the booth and it was a real honor.
“I just hope that everybody who enters Memorial Stadium gets to feel the full experience of high school football on a Friday night. I do it for the kids and their families and receiving positive affirmation from the community makes me proud of the job that we are doing,” he said.