Kirkwood–Webster Groves Turkey Day Game
In Missouri, the Turkey Day Game is an annual American high school football contest between Kirkwood High School's Pioneers and Webster Groves High School's Statesmen, two teams based in St. Louis County, Missouri. The contest has traditionally been played on Thanksgiving.
The Kirkwood-Webster Groves rivalry celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007. Newly found evidence shows that 2007 also celebrated the 100th known football game since 1898 between the two schools (whether or not there were games played during the 1899, 1900, and 1905 seasons still remains unknown) and the 77th game played on Thanksgiving Day between the varsity teams of the two schools. It was not regularly played on Thanksgiving until 1928. In addition to the unknown seasons of 1899, 1900, and 1905, there was no game in 1904 because Kirkwood did not have a team; there were two games held in 1906; three games held in 1907; and two games held in 1908. Annual games in 1909–10, 1912, 1915–17, 1919–21, and 1923 are recorded, but none were held on Thanksgiving; no games were held 1911, 1914, 1918 (due to World War I and the flu pandemic), nor between 1924 and 1927. The four-year hiatus in the 1920s came after a melee occurred on the field in 1923 that involved spectators from the stands. A referee called back all three of Kirkwood's touchdowns due to penalties, allowing Webster Groves to win the game 7–0. The win gave Webster Groves its eighth consecutive win and a 14–7–2 lead in the varsity series since 1898.
The game resumed in 1928 and was played continuously on Thanksgiving Day through 1974. While not the only Thanksgiving football game in Missouri during its early existence, the state's high school athletic commission shut down most others (one prominent example being the Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs) after 1950, while leaving the Kirkwood–Webster Groves game intact. In 1975, when the then-St. Louis Cardinals hosted NFL games on Thanksgiving, the city resisted the move, in part because the Kirkwood-Webster Groves rivalry had already established itself (the Cardinals were never particularly popular in St. Louis, and the Dallas Cowboys, whose place the Cardinals had taken, were already a major national draw); the Turkey Day Game was not held that year. The Cardinals gave up on playing Thanksgiving games in 1977 after three games, and the hosting reverted to the Cowboys. For similar reasons, the Rams, during their 21-year tenure in St. Louis, never played on Thanksgiving.
The game was also not held on Thanksgiving in 1980 or 1985. Two games between the two teams are recorded in 1983.
Junior varsity backup agreement
The institution of the Show-Me Bowl, a statewide championship tournament for high school football in Missouri, has complicated the playing of the Turkey Day Game, much as state championships elsewhere in the United States have done; both Kirkwood and Webster Groves have typically been contenders for the state title since approximately 2002. In 1988, Webster Groves decided not to play the Turkey Day Game and chose to contest for the Show-Me Bowl instead. To allow the game to not be canceled because of such conflicts in future years, the two schools agreed to the "Turkey Day Agreement." The agreement stipulates that in the event that either Kirkwood or Webster Groves advances to the Show-Me Bowl state championship game, the non-varsity members of the junior varsity and freshman squads play instead. (The precedent was based on the 1979 contest, in which Webster Groves played the JV squad for most of the Turkey Day Game, still managing to win, en route to the state title.) The agreement was first invoked in 2002, and again in 2003 and 2006.
The Kirkwood and Webster Groves varsity teams did not meet in the Turkey Day Game for a four-year stretch between 2009 and 2012. This is because every year in that time span, at least one of the two teams advanced to the Show-Me Bowl, thus invoking the Agreement and relegating the contest to a junior varsity match. In 2010, there was an unusual situation: the Kirkwood and Webster Groves varsity teams met in the Class 5 state semifinals the weekend before Thanksgiving, assuring one of them would advance to the Show-Me Bowl; Webster Groves won the game, 28–0. In addition to the pre-Thanksgiving matchup, the junior varsity teams played on Thanksgiving itself. In 2012 and 2013, the two teams faced each other in the playoffs earlier in November, which was more common given the two schools' proximity. Even though the two had already met in the playoffs earlier in 2013, the varsity teams met in the Turkey Day Game on Thanksgiving itself, breaking a five-year JV streak; Kirkwood avenged its earlier loss in a 44–0 rout. Kirkwood would also win the 2014 and 2015 contests, 33–6 and 42–13 respectively.
When the Rams left St. Louis in 2016, closing the Show-Me Bowl's permanent home venue, the Show-Me Bowl was split up so that the lowest class, the eight-man football class, and the largest, Class 6, are held the weekend before Thanksgiving. By this point, Kirkwood, which had been a Class 5 school as recently as 2013, had grown into Class 6, which resulted in Kirkwood being able to advance all the way to the 2016 Show-Me Bowl (which it won) and play the Turkey Day Game in the same year without invoking the Agreement; using their backup quarterback, Kirkwood won their fourth consecutive Turkey Day Game 17–6. It was the second time either team won both the state title and the Turkey Day Game in the same year, following Webster Groves's achievement of the feat in 1979 (coincidentally, the next year would begin the only other Kirkwood four-game winning streak in the game's record). (Webster Groves remains in Class 5 and thus must still invoke the Agreement should it ever return to the Show-Me Bowl; Kirkwood's promotion also ensures that neither team will face each other in the playoffs for the foreseeable future.)
The Turkey Day Game site alternates between Moss Field (Webster Groves) on even years and Lyons Field (Kirkwood) on odd years. As of the end of 2016, Webster Groves leads the all-time series between the two teams (counting Thanksgiving and non-Thanksgiving games) 58–50–7. Among only Thanksgiving games, Kirkwood leads the series 40–37–5.
The term Turkey Day in both Kirkwood and Webster has grown to encompass not only the football game itself, but the festivities in the week prior to Thanksgiving Day. Both schools participate in extensive activities surrounding Turkey Day during Thanksgiving week. The Friendship Dance is held every year at the high school not hosting that year's game, as a gesture of friendship between the schools. Each school names a Friendship Court and selects a Friendship Queen and King from the court. In addition, each grade level at both schools decorate a hallway in a unique theme, and are then judged. At both schools, the activities culminate in respective pep rallies both on the last day of school of that week (Tuesday) and the Wednesday night before the game. At both Kirkwood and Webster, there is a bonfire after the Wednesday night pep rally. Drawing thousands of people every year, the game itself has grown in popularity to the likes of the local news and cable broadcasts of the game. As well as being recognized by ESPN, the game has garnered a multi-page exclusive article in Sports Illustrated.
Since 1952, a bell from a retired locomotive, donated by the Frisco Railroad Company, has been used as the trophy for the Turkey Day Game. The winner of the game takes possession of the Frisco Bell until the next game. The Bell was first awarded to Kirkwood, despite the game ending in a tie, because Webster Groves had lost the previous year's game. Since 1940, the loser has received the Little Brown Jug, which originally had painted the years and scores of the game on its back, but now has been replaced with the Centennial Jug, with the history of the coaches painted on it.
- Askeland, Kevin (2009-11-24). High school football a tradition on Thanksgiving Day. CBS Sports. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
- Kirkwood Pioneers head to the Dome. Webster-Kirkwood Times. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- Sells, George (2010-11-20). Kirkwood And Webster Groves Meet In High School Playoffs. KTVI. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
- Hilton looms large as Webster Groves knocks off Kirkwood. stltoday.com. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
- 2013 Turkey Day Game. The Kirkwood Call. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
- Kvidahl, David (November 26, 2015). Kirkwood's defense dominates in win over Webster Groves. stltoday.com. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
- Kvidahl, David (November 24, 2016). Backup quarterback helps Kirkwood get fourth consecutive Turkey Day win. stltoday.com. Retieved September 21, 2017.
- Announcement of 100th Anniversary activities. Kirkwood Special Events
- St.Louis Public Library – Turkey Day Game
- Turkey Day Game at ktrs.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
-  at ksdk.com. Retrieved November 23, 2017.