(Photo provided by Jake Shane, The Quincy Herald-Whig)
They remember all too well how Monroe City dealt a huge blow to one of East Prairie's most celebrated football teams in 1994 and it's not a pleasant memory.
Although, on Saturday, even the most die-hard East Prairie fans may have a reason to cheer for "that" team.
East Prairie native and former Eagle football player David Kirby is now the head football coach at Monroe City. Kirby, 35, led the Panthers to a 34-28 win over Lincoln which vaulted Monroe City into the Class 1 state championship game at Plaster Stadium in Springfield, Mo.
It will be the first state title appearance for the Panthers since 1998 when Kirby was a senior at East Prairie High School. Four years earlier, Kirby had his first experience with the team he would eventually get to coach to a championship game.
Kirby grew up in East Prairie alongside East Prairie football coach Chad Jamerson and Sikeston assistant football coach Corey Adkisson. During the 1994 football season, Kirby was an eighth grader while Jamerson was a freshman and Adkisson was a sophomore on East Prairie's football team that met a historic end.
"It's funny and ironic that he's now taking a team to the state championship game that essentially 20-something years ago kept us out of one," Jamerson said.
East Prairie's 1994 football team is, arguably, the peak of Eagle football. They're responsible for sending East Prairie to their one and only state semifinal game appearance and provided one of their greatest wins of all time when they defeated John Burroughs 10-7 in an overtime thriller during the state quarterfinals. That win set up their meeting with Monroe City.
"That John Burroughs win was the pinnacle of Eagle football," said Adkisson, who started on offense in 1994. "Thus far, that's been East Prairie's best football team."
But then came the following week against Monroe City and it wasn't pretty. The Panthers crushed East Prairie 37-0.
"To not be disrespectful to any alumni, but my memory of it was that it was a drubbing," Jamerson said. "It got out of hand quickly. They were pretty unbelievable. They were just a level above anybody else in Class 2 that year."
Monroe City, which is located 23 miles west of Hannibal Mo., went on to win state the next week beating Warsaw 18-13. East Prairie hasn't come close to making another semifinal since.
"People in Monroe City, they let me know about that game too," Kirby said.
Kirby went on to play football for the next four years and graduated from East Prairie in 1999. He attended college at Southeast Missouri State University where he was a thrower for the track and field team.
After getting his teaching degree, he taught at East Prairie for a time where he was an assistant football and track coach. Kirby then took a teaching job at Milan High School where he was an assistant football coach for three years before the East Prairie native joined the enemy.
In 2011, Kirby joined Monroe City.
"It was kind of a neat deal when this position opened up," Kirby said. "Some people in East Prairie were kind of like, 'What? I can't believe you're doing that.' But, it's been a great opportunity for me."
Jamerson was one of those people.
"As an East Prairie guy and a guy that played with him growing up we gave him a hard time when he took that job," Jamerson said. "I remember the day he called me. He said, 'You'll never guess where I'm going to go coach.' I was like, 'Of all the places with you growing up in East Prairie that you could choose you would go to Monroe City?'"
Kirby even gets grieve from the Monroe City side. One of his assistant coaches played for that 1994 Panther team.
"It's a funny thing," Kirby said. "He gives me a little razzing about it."
Kirby spent his first two years as an assistant coach before taking over the head coaching position in 2013.
Making the world look even smaller, Adkisson played college football with Tony DeGrave at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. DeGrave played for Monroe City's 1994 football team and was Monroe City's head football coach before Kirby took over.
"I've had some connections with that town for quite a while," Adkisson said.
Since Kirby's stepped into the head role, the Panthers have been up and down. His coaching record so far is 25-22 with an 8-4 finish in 2014 and his 11-3 mark this season. They finished 3-8 last year.
"Last year we started so many young guys. Lots of freshman and sophomores," Kirby said. "We competed in a lot of games but we just come up just short and couldn't get those wins. This year they've really bought in to our philosophy, they're a year older and went through those baptisms by fire. We've just played more complete football."
If he's taken one thing from his time playing football at East Prairie, Kirby said it's the value of hard work. He fondly remembers former assistant coach Bernard Ivy and the lessons he taught.
"He always talked about how you have to work hard to earn things and he always pushed us really hard," Kirby said. "That's something I always try to instill in my kids. I'll never forget what he done for me."
Kirby will have a chance to give Monroe City its first state championship since 1996. The Panthers will play Penney, who defeated Valle Catholic 33-19 in the other semifinal to end the Warriors' streak of seven consecutive title game appearances winning five of them.
"We're all cheering for David," Adkisson said. "We're all kind of living through him right now as far as wanting to see him win it. I know a lot of guys that grew up with him are big Monroe City football fans now through Facebook and Twitter posts by all East Prairie people. We all want to see him win it this week. He's living it for us right now."
And maybe, if things go Kirby's way, East Prairie's dreams of winning a state championship will be somewhat realized through one of its sons.
Even if it is with Monroe City.
"I'm just super proud of him and super proud for him," Jamerson said. "As a friend and a coaching colleague I thought I'd be jealous. I'm not. I'm just amazingly excited for him and I'm hoping it works out well for him.
"It would be nice if one of us would win a state championship."