Kirkwood–Webster Groves Turkey Day Game

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The Varsity football team rolls in the Frisco Bell to the 2011 Turkey Game at E. L. Lyons Memorial Stadium in Kirkwood

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.

History[edit]

The "Turkey Day Game" 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. 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 four cancellations of the game in 1911, 1914, 1918, 1988; two games held in 1906; three games held in 1907; two games held in 1908; two games held in 1983; seven years in which only the junior varsity squads played on Thanksgiving Day due to a playoff schedule conflict (see below) in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; fourteen games postponed or not scheduled on Thanksgiving Day since 1907–1909, 1910, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1975, 1980, and 1985. The game was suspended for four years – 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927 – 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 until 1975. The game site alternates between Moss Field (Webster Groves) on even years and Lyons Field (Kirkwood) on odd years.

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 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.

As of 2015, Webster Groves leads the all-time series 53–45–5.

Junior varsity backup agreement[edit]

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 the event that either Kirkwood or Webster Groves advances to the Show-Me Bowl state championship game, a 1988 "Turkey Day Agreement" established as a result of the Show-Me Bowl stipulates that the non-varsity members of the junior varsity and freshman squads play instead. The agreement was first invoked in 2002, and again in 2003 and 2006.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] In 2012 and 2013, the two teams faced each other in the playoffs earlier in November, which is more common given the two schools' proximity.[4] 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.[5] Kirkwood would also win the 2014 and 2015 contests, 33–6 and 42–13 respectively.[6]

Festivities[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8]

Broadcasting[edit]

KTRS (AM 550) owns the radio broadcast rights to the game.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Askeland, Kevin (2009-11-24). High school football a tradition on Thanksgiving Day. CBS Sports. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  2. ^ Kirkwood Pioneers head to the Dome. Webster-Kirkwood Times. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  3. ^ Sells, George (2010-11-20). Kirkwood And Webster Groves Meet In High School Playoffs. KTVI. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  4. ^ Hilton looms large as Webster Groves knocks off Kirkwood. stltoday.com. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
  5. ^ 2013 Turkey Day Game. The Kirkwood Call. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  6. ^ Kvidahl, David (November 26, 2015). Kirkwood's defense dominates in win over Webster Groves. stltoday.com. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  7. ^ Announcement of 100th Anniversary activities. Kirkwood Special Events
  8. ^ St.Louis Public Library – Turkey Day Game
  9. ^ Turkey Day Game at ktrs.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.