A great lesson of sports is to learn to respect your opponent. A true coaching legend for Rockhurst High School coached his last regular season game against Blue Springs High School Friday night.

To state that Tony Severino is a coaching icon is an understatement – to say the least. His name has been associated with excellence for more than four decades. A book could be written about all his accomplishments on the field. He has won seven state championships with five of those being in undefeated seasons. His teams have participated in 11 state championship games.

Up to this point, his overall record, including his first victory this year over Columbia Rock Bridge is 339 wins, 88 losses and 1 tie. That adds up to a 79.2 winning percentage at Rockhurst during his 37-year tenure. Coach Severino also won state football and baseball championships in his early years as a head coach in Kansas.

If you look up winner in Webster’s Dictionary, you may see a picture of Coach Severino. All those glowing statistics go along with a man who has shown nothing but class throughout his entire career. Kansas City area coaches and players who have been a part of high school football in the past 40-plus years will all say that he is an even better person than he is a coach.

For years, all programs in the city have used Rockhurst football as a measuring stick for their programs. Approximately 30 years ago, some of the powers at Blue Springs School District kicked around the idea of not playing Rockhurst because of the perception that the school had too many advantages. Thank God they did not follow through with the notion.

In order to be the best, you must play the best. Blue Springs would have never won five state championships if it did not have Rockhurst and Tony Severino as archrivals.

The annual battle between Blue Springs and Rockhurst is one of the most anticipated high school football games in the Kansas City area. For the past 30 years the teams usually have played twice a year when you include the playoffs. It is a fact – like it or not – that if you are a large class school in the Kansas City area, Blue Springs and Rockhurst will be teams you will need to beat on the road to a state championship appearance.

Hall of Fame and four time Super Bowl champion quarterback Terry Bradshaw said it best: “When you got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.” That is what has driven the Blue Springs-Rockhurst rivalry for 30-plus years.

All good things do eventually come to an end. The game between these two programs this week pits two of the greatest Kansas City high school football coaches against one another. A conversation held at any of the local watering holes about high school football will inevitably bring up a comparison of which of these two coaches is better – Tony Severino or Kelly Donohoe.

It is an easy answer – they make each other the best.

Tony has been a fantastic role model for all young football coaches, but his greatest attribute is the level of respect his players have for him. I have never spoken to any past Rockhurst player who did not believe they were coached by the best high school coach in America which is a testament to his greatness.

And Severino has always won with class and has always lost with class. As stated by Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell: “Somebody will always break your records. It is how you live that counts.”

Tony Severino will always be remembered as a legendary Kansas City high school football coach, but more importantly as an even better human being. Enjoy your retirement, Coach Severino. Thank you for making Kansas City high school football special.

• The quote of the week comes from American writer Herbert N. Carson: “In handling men, there are three feelings that a man must not possess – fear, dislike and contempt. If he is afraid of men he cannot handle them. Neither can he influence them in his favor if he dislikes or scorns them. He must neither cringe nor sneer. He must have both self-respect and respect for others.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.