Between Alma, Northside, Southside, Van Buren and Greenwood, there can be only one champion.
Well, in football there can be more. But when it comes to downing the most hamburgers five minutes, just a single winner can be crowned.
Van Buren defensive lineman Dillon Kinsey downed four burgers to beat his River Valley rivals in the eighth annual high school ESPN Radio/Hardee’s Thickburger Eating Contest.
Alma’s Derek Archer, Greenwood’s Brett Calhoun, Southside’s Baley Pankey and Northside’s Deontre Hardwick competed as well. Kinsey received $400 for his school’s booster club and a championship trophy.
There were no betting lines on it, but Kinsey probably would have been the favorite. The 6-foot-1, 255-pound defensive lineman was the biggest competitor.
But size didn’t make it any easier.
“Oh, man, after about two-and-a-half minutes I couldn’t hardly chew,” Kinsey said. “My jaw hurt. Those little 180-pound girls and guys that do it, I don’t see how they do it.”
The contest began 8 years ago as the brainchild of ESPN Radio host Tommy Craft and Hardee’s senior district manager Dwayne Fabor. It was a perfect promotion to engage the local the community and provide some friendly competition before football season, Fabor said.
“All the area coaches are great about sending a kid over here. And the coaches actually participated before as well,” he said. “It’s kind of a tradition now. It’s now football season. The kids are in their jerseys. You get Alma and Greenwood together, or Northside and Southside, anything is competitive.”
The rivalries were apparent. Archer was asked before the contest how many he thought he could eat. His answer was simple: more than Greenwood or Van Buren.
Hardwick, the Grizzlies sophomore linebacker, finished second, about half a burger behind Kinsey. He was one of two sophomores, with Pankey, who took part. He’s all brawn (6-1, 229) and didn’t have to be persuaded to join the contest, either.
“Well, it all started … we go to Ole Miss to a football camp and we went out to eat,” Hardwick said. “I ate a whole bunch; I was so hungry that day. I ate a whole lot. (Coach Mike Falleur) asked if I wanted to do it (the contest) and he was like ‘I’ve seen you eat.’ And I said sure, coach, I’ll do it.”
Teammates, parents and coaches packed the restaurant on Rogers Avenue to cheer on their favorite high school. Archer was supported by about 20 of his teammates, most of which were dressed in their jerseys for an intrasquad scrimmage later Saturday afternoon.
Kinsey appeared weary afterwards. The meat sweats, they’re called. His trophy in hand, he joked it would be the first of several more wins Van Buren would get this season.
“I just want to go out on a good note. I just want to have one winning season with Van Buren,” he said. “And I completely feel we’re going to do that this year.”