Hundreds of fans gathered both on and off Kent State University's campus Thursday morning to cheer on the Golden Flashes football team as it shipped off to its first shot at the Mid-American Conference Championship in 40 years.
"This has been an incredible year because you guys have made it happen weekend after weekend," KSU President Lester Lefton told the football team during a rally in the MAC Center before the team's buses departed. "An entire community is so excited for what you've done."
When the buses did depart, another crowd, including all 285 St. Patrick School students, was ready to cheer and wave at the intersection on Main and Water streets downtown as the team rolled through.
"We were all here and the kids loved it. It was great," St. Patrick School Principal Howard Mancini said, adding that the university gave every student towels and signs to wave. "When I started here, I talked about wanting to re-establish our ties to Kent State. It's little things like this that begin to re-establish you with such a valuable commodity in the community, which is the university."
About 230 Franklin Elementary School students also lined S.R. 43 in front of the school building to cheer on the team.
"I was getting all emotional just standing there," Franklin Elementary Principal Todd Poole said. "The football team has got to be so pumped up and excited to play for the MAC Championship, and then to have all the support of the community and the kids -- the kids were just going nuts."
The Golden Flashes take on the Northern Illinois Huskies at 7 tonight on Detroit's Ford Field, which can be viewed on ESPN2.
Much of the Kent community is buzzing with awe and hope after the Golden Flashes' successful 11-1 season, which makes them bowl-eligible, with the potential to play in the Orange Bowl if they clinch a win tonight.
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