Hundreds attend Ava, Mo. downtown pep rally ahead of school's first state championship game

AVA, Mo. -- The Ava Bears will be playing for the school's first football state Championship Friday afternoon in Columbia, Mo.

Thursday it seemed like everyone in the small town turned out for a big send off.

Last Saturday, the bears made history by winning their first ever state semi-final game, in the mud and in overtime against Clark County.

Since then, life's been crazy for coaches and players.

"It's been hectic. It's been great though," head coach Dan Swofford told KY3.

"It's crazy. I just feel like a celebrity walking though Ava, Quarterback Nate Swofford added. Everybody is grabbing us, saying hey you did a great job, don't stop now. They're just wishing us luck and stuff."

Thursday afternoon, the entire district gathered in the gym for a pep rally.

School spirit is at an all-time high.

Downtown is decorated in support of the team.

"It's a bunch of love. Crazy. I've never seen anything like it in Ava, Blayne Mendel said. I've never seen this many people in the square."

"It feels really good to just know the whole town is behind us. It's like this town runs on sports and stuff, being a small town. It just feels really good," Ben Manzolioo explained.

It's safe to say about half of the town came out for Thursday night's downtown pep rally. It was announced that 1,000 tickets have been sold for Friday's game. It's safe to say there will be plenty of Ava Bear fans in Columbia.

"None of it matters, they've already made history. We're already proud of them. I just keep thinking Cinderella.....David and Goliath. It's our year," Ava resident Vanessa Thomas exclaimed.

"I think we got a great chance at it. I think we have a great support system coming tomorrow. I think we really have a shot," Ava junior Landon Potter told KY3.

Players are ready for the biggest game of their lives.

"We put our pants on the same way they do. That's all there is to it," Manzoliloo stated.

And one phrase that resonates in Ava...

"Respect all, fear none," Thomas screamed.

The team bus leaves at 7:30 am and the game against Lutheran North kicks off at 3.