Kurt Kinnamon has watched the McPherson High-Buhler rivalry increasingly develop over the more than two decades he’s been the Bullpups’ boys basketball coach.
But it's not just been in basketball. It's football, soccer, baseball, softball — you name it. The towns are separated by less than 20 miles and it's a natural rivalry, especially since the schools are in the same league.
Despite his team's success against the Crusaders, which includes three wins this year including last week's sub-state championship game, Kinnamon has felt for quite some time now that the rivalry has turned somewhat ugly and unhealthy.
There's been animosity between the towns and the schools' students. And Kinnamon says there's really no need for it. It's a game, nothing more, nothing less.
So at Monday's AVCTL meeting to pick the Division III basketball team, Kinnamon and good friend Ryan Swanson, coach of the Crusaders, had a meeting of the minds.
"The social media competition or trash talk or whatever you want to call it between McPherson and Buhler has gotten what I call over the top," Kinnamon said. "I said to Ryan that's not what high school sports ought to be about and we ought to do something about that. It just so happens the next morning he called me and said 'they've had those fires down there (in Reno County) and even the (Buhler) principal had lost his home and would you guys like to do something. I said sure, put the basketball team down for a donation.'"
But the $200 the basketball team donated was only the tip of the iceberg.
"I mentioned it to Mr. (AD Shane) Backhus and he ran with it, he simply ran with it," Kinnamon said. "He did a great job with it. And every single program at McPherson High School has given a donation. We had a lot of individual donations and I'm not talking just the athletic program. We're talking band, we're talking forensics, we're talking debate. Everybody has given some sort of donation to this relief fund. Very, very proud to be a Bullpup. We want to show our neighbors to the South, yeah, we want to beat you pretty bad out on the court, but we care about our fellow man and I couldn't be any more proud to be a part of that."
All 18 MHS sports teams contributed at least $200, with the cheerleaders, Hi-Steppers, NFL, School Store, KAY, Stuco, the Sophomore and Junior Classes and Band also contributing for an amazing total of $5,440 for the good people of Reno County. And this year's Senior Class donated several hundred dollars of water and supplies to the Buhler Fire Department, while there were individual donations as well.
"When coach Kinnamon talked to me Tuesday morning about the boys basketball team donating to the Buhler Fire Victims Fund, I challenged the rest of our athletic programs to do the same," Backhus said. "It was a great way to show our support We enjoy the rivalry, but when bad things happen it shows that we can come together to help one another out. I am sure Buhler High School would do the same for us."
Kinnamon and Backhus hope this gesture will foster friendly relations and lessen the somewhat hard feelings between the schools. After all, life is far more important than a sporting event.