Annabelle, the 1-year-old cow, is the messenger.
Pictures of the white Charolais with “PL Kaws #1” and “Go Kaws” painted on her are plastered all over Perry and Lecompton.
The cow’s owners added the message as the Perry-Lecompton High School football team has reached the 4A state championship. The school’s first trip to the title game in its 37-year history has residents in the Kansas River valley communities in a frenzy.
“Oh my goodness. That’s about all everybody talks about,” said Mary K. Hurd, who owns Perry Milling Inc. with her husband, Don.
Her grandson, Logan Hurd, is a junior offensive tackle, and the Hurds even posted a photo of the “Go Kaws” cow inside the store. About 2 miles south across the Kansas River, Annabelle’s photo is posted in the glass door of the Lecompton post office.
The cow’s owners, Anna and Gene Barrett of Barrett Cattle west of Perry, posted the message on the cow Thursday before the team’s semifinal win. When Anna Barrett, a Perry-Lecompton alumnus, e-mailed the photo to people, it became a sensation, symbolic of the community’s support for coach Mike Paramore’s team, Barrett said.
“It’s just a group of young men who have played together for a long time. They’re just going out and getting it done, basically in a quiet way,” she said.
The school district serves students from Perry, Lecompton, Grantville and Williamstown, including several rural areas. Activities director Theresa Beatty said the Kaws, who are 10-3, have been good for several years, but they’ve finally broken through to meet 4A powerhouse Topeka Hayden in the championship at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Beatty said the community is buzzing, and so many people plan to make the drive to Salina Saturday that the school’s principal J.B. Elliott has joked: “Last one out of Perry turn out the lights.”
The team’s success is great for the rural and smaller communities, she said, especially during tougher economic times.
“It is something everybody can look forward to and enjoy and not have to think about that other stuff for a Saturday afternoon,” Beatty said.
Tuesday was the last day of school before Thanksgiving, but seniors Kali Roberts and Stephanie Horton were working on a huge blue banner.
“I think people are still in shock. This is our senior year, and we’re actually going to state,” Roberts said.
So many people in the area have known the players since they were little, which makes the team special, said Jennifer Folks, of Lecompton. Her nephews, Eric and Trevor Hastert, play on the team, and she said the school’s booster club plans a community sendoff Saturday morning before the team and fans head west to Salina.
“It’s not just a high school thing; It’s a whole community thing,” Folks said.