Kelsea Whitten's father got her hooked on the Kansas City Chiefs when she was a child. Now 27, Whitten — wearing a Travis Kelce jersey — sat Sunday with friends and family at Hackett Hot Wings, watching her favorite team play in the AFC Championship.
Her father was not exactly close by.
"He's in an airplane, heading somewhere warmer," Whitten said, laughing.
Whitten was one of many fans in the Joplin province of Chiefs kingdom Sunday watching the team punch its ticket to Super Bowl 54, which will be played on Feb. 2 in Miami. With a 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs will play for its first league title since Super Bowl 4 in 1970, when the team defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.
During the first half, Whitten and her friends hoped for a Kansas City win. Whitten, a teacher at Joplin High School, said most of her students also were Chiefs fans.
"Everyone I know would be excited for a win," Whitten said. "My students will be excited, too, so the next few classes will be even more fun."
As the Chiefs converted on downs in the game's final seconds to seal the win, a crowd of more than 100 inside the restaurant's main room celebrated with a tomahawk chop cheer. Other fans celebrated by taking videos of celebrations, dancing and cheering beside their tables.
Phyllis Wofford, 63, of Carthage, was one of the fans cheering. She remembered the Chiefs' first Super Bowl win.
"It was a long time ago," Wofford said. "I was a lot younger then, and I hadn't really jumped on the bandwagon yet. I would love to see the team go now. It's their year."
Wofford and her family, including four brothers and a sister, have been on that bandwagon over the last few decades. She said her family used to host Chiefs parties in Carthage regularly.
Colin Martin, of Baxter Springs, and Keisha Tatum, of Webb City, celebrated the win with photos, drinks and hugs with a group of their friends.
"This is the greatest experience in sports that I've ever had in my whole life," Martin said.
Like both of their families, the couple share a love of the Chiefs and have watched every single game together for as long as they've been a couple.
After the game, Wofford beamed as the Lamar Hunt trophy was presented to the Chiefs. She hadn't talked to any of her family yet but saw them talking on Facebook about the win.
"I'm so excited," Wofford said. "Sitting here, I've been hoping and praying that they'd win and go to the Super Bowl. Love it, love it, love it."