Run to state leaves Cassville football with lifelong memory
“I don’t know if we would have won the state championship without him,” said Odessa football coach Mark Thomas.
Odessa’s Kade Kehl was special in many ways.
“He would come up to me ahead of every game, and hug me, and tell me he loved me, that’s Kade Kehl,” Thomas said.
The Odessa senior carried that love onto the field during last year’s state championship. And after Odessa won, he hugged the Cassville players too.
“The one thing I can’t get out of my head is the smile on that kid’s face after the State game. It was something I did not want to see at the time. He ran up to us, gave us all a hug, and shook our hands and told us, ‘great job. You guys scored as many points on us as anybody had this season,’” said former Cassville quarterback Deven Bates. “His smile when he walked up to us, it was ear to ear and you could definitely tell that was probably the greatest day of his life.”
But on July 19th, Kade’s life came to an end.
He was on his way back from a graduation party in Baldwin City, Kansas. Near the Gardner exit on I-35, his car flipped. He died before the paramedics arrived.
Cassville’s former captains saw the news, and immediately decided to reach out to the family for permission to attend the visitation and pay their respects to someone they met just once.
“During that State game, there was a lot more than getting beat up by Odessa that happened. We kind of bonded with them in that game, because after every hit they were always right there saying good job and picking us up off the ground,” Bates said.
Deven Bates, Bowen Preddy, DJ White and Troy Hagins drove three and a half hours to Odessa, for a 15 minute window. They were 2 hours early. but they weren’t going to miss it.
“Kade’s dad took us outside and was telling us how appreciative he was of us and how much he enjoyed us making that trip. We all told him almost at the same time that coming up there was our pleasure,” said Bates.
It wasn’t for recognition, or a pat on the back — Coach Parnell and their parents didn’t even know they went until they were making the drive back.
How proud were you to find out? “Oh, very proud. You know, you work — you work with those kids, hope that they grow up, and that’s a sign that they did grow up and mature,” Cassville football coach Lance Parnell said.
The death of Kade Kehl put life into perspective for these Cassville players, and now, when Deven looks back on their loss in the state championship, all he sees is the smile on Kade’s face.
“That’s one of the things I’m thankful for that the game didn’t turn out any other way. That’s the last face of Kade Kehl I’ll see, and I’m glad it was a face of happiness and him feeling like he was on the top of the world,” Bates said.
Odessa football video courtesy of Bobby Raybourn