White Plains will host Stepinac on Thanksgiving morning at 10:30 in the 42nd annual Turkey Bowl between the schools. It will end a 34-day layoff for White Plains, which, coincidentally, is 30 days longer than Stepinac. In the midst of their preparation for the CHSFL playoffs, the Crusaders weren’t able to begin installing the game plan for White Plains until Monday afternoon.
Here’s a look at the history of the rivalry, plus Adam Berger’s preview and my scouting report:
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These days, the game traditionally draws the second-largest crowd of the season behind only Rye-Harrison. It is something of a reunion from alumni of both schools who are in town for the holiday.
With an assist from White Plains sports historian Don Gano, here’s a look at the results from over the years:
1971 — White Plains, 19-7
1972 — White Plains, 40-16
1973 — Stepinac, 17-7
1974 — White Plains, 39-12
1975 — White Plains, 9-0
1976 — White Plains, 21-0
1977 — Stepinac, 28-14
1978 — White Plains, 28-15
1979 — White Plains, 44-8
1980 — Stepinac, 23-20
1981 — White Plains, 42-20
1982 — Stepinac, 23-20
1983 — White Plains, 14-3
1984 — White Plains, 11-3
1985 — White Plains, 16-0
1986 — White Plains, 13-12
1987 — Stepinac, 13-0
1988 — Stepinac, 28-12
1989 — White Plains, 21-14
1990 — White Plains, 14-0
1991 — White Plains, 21-14
1992 — White Plains, 14-8
1993 — White Plains, 8-6
1994 — White Plains, 26-20
1995 — White Plains, 43-7
1996 — White Plains, 15-0
1997 — Stepinac, 21-0
1998 — White Plains, 12-10
1999 — White Plains, 30-13
2000 — Stepinac, 35-12
2001 — Stepinac, 35-0
2002 — White Plains, 19-14
2003 — White Plains, 33-0
2004 — White Plains, 24-8
2005 — White Plains, 7-0
2006 — Stepinac, 30-0
2007 — Stepinac, 26-13
2008 — Stepinac, 29-14
2009 — White Plains, 21-14
2010 — Stepinac, 42-14
2011 — Stepinac, 38-14
2012 — Stepinac, 19-18
ALL-TIME SERIES — White Plains leads series 27-15
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The Patriots and Jets won’t be the only teams playing a rivalry football game this Thanksgiving. Intra-city high school foes White Plains and Stepinac will meet for the 42nd annual Turkey Bowl Thursday morning at White Plains High School.
“This game is a great rivalry that should never end. It is one of the best days each year in the White Plains community,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said. “The players all look forward to this special day each year. It is a long-time tradition where many Stepinac and White Plains players have gone to battle before.”
White Plains leads the series 27-14 but has dropped five of the past six meetings, including a 38-14 loss last season.
The Tigers are also coming off a tough regular season that saw them finish 1-6. White Plains coach Skip Stevens knows what a win in the Turkey Bowl would mean for his team.
“That would make the season,” Stevens said. “We’ve had a tough year. We know we’ve had tough a year. If you go out on top in the Thanksgiving game that would be a great way to finish.”
Stepinac (3-6) is coming off an overtime loss to St. Joseph by-the-Sea in Sunday’s quarterfinals of the CHSFL playoffs, which were pushed back twice due to Superstorm Sandy.
While the short turnaround is not ideal, the Stepinac players are excited to play in the traditional rivalry game.
“Mentally and physically we’re hurting a little bit, but the seniors want to go out with a bang,” Crusaders quarterback Dan Hoffer said. “It’s almost like a championship for us. It’s such a big game and we want this really bad. It’s for the town of White Plains.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers haven’t played a game in over a month. Stevens said he tried to schedule scrimmages during the long layoff but wasn’t able to because of the extreme weather that hit the area.
He says that his players are ready but expects emotions to run high in the season finale.
“The seniors started getting extra vocal last week,” Stevens said. “When you play with White Plains across your chest and know it’s your last game, for me that’s the toughest time to coach and it’s the toughest time for them to play.”
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42nd Turkey Bowl
White Plains (1-6) vs. Stepinac (3-6)
When: Thursday, 10:30 a.m.
Where: White Plains High School
Key players: White Plains – Robby Lorden (6-3, 230), Sr., OL/DL; Elijah Young (6-1, 265), Sr., OL/DL; Luke Puff (6-0, 165), Sr., WR/DB; Ari Shammery (6-1, 190), Sr., RB/DE; Brandon Williams (5-6, 150), Sr., RB/DB/KR. Stepinac – Dan Hoffer (6-2, 205), Sr., QB; Dan Pomposello (6-4, 305), Sr., OT; Ryan Burnett (5-6, 185), Sr., RB; Tom Dediviani (5-9, 190), Sr., LB; Damarcus Miller (6-1, 170), So., WR/LB.
Outlook: The teams meet for the 42nd time, but perhaps never more so has their readiness been so in question. White Plains has not played since its regular season finale on Oct. 19 while Stepinac played on Sunday. The Tigers lead the all-time series 27-14, but they have dropped five of six, including the last two by a combined score of 80-28. Both teams struggled this season to varying degrees after they were hit hard by graduation. White Plains dropped its first five, but none by more than two touchdowns, including a 14-0 loss to Class AA state finalist New Rochelle. Stepinac was similarly snakebitten. The Crusaders suffered three of their six losses by a combined seven points.
Their offense is led by Hoffer, a 1,000-yard passer, and Burnett, a 1,000-yard rusher. A small, but quick collection of skill players will supplement the offense, including Justin Thomas, Christian Lopez and the team’s fastest player, Malcolm Major. Three of the defense’s top playmakers are at linebacker in Dediviani, Miller and Sekret Kukaj. Miller is one of four sophomores playing a key role, along with the explosive Major, cornerback Gavin Heslop and Gavin Kennedy, who anchors the defensive line with Sterling Lovelock.
White Plains’ offense is primarily run-based and will be even more so if starting QB Cameron Crabbe is out. The junior was ejected from the Tigers’ season finale and is not expected to be eligible to play. Steady runners Shammery and Chris Jordan will receive touches along with Williams, the team’s main gamebreaker. One of White Plains’ strengths is its line play, led by captains Lorden and Young, who are standout two-way players.
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White Plains coach Skip Stevens on Stepinac:
“They are very well coached and very aggressive on defense. On offense they pose problems in the run game and also are a pass threat. Their quarterback is very good.”
Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell on the tradition of the Turkey Bowl:
“I have coached personally in 32 Turkey Bowls. It is the best day in White Plains every year. White Plains has taken byes and have had problems with Section 1 to keep the game alive. They are waiting 33 days to play this game. The moment Stepinac or White Plains cancels this game, it will never be played again. It is a very important game to our alumni, our school and our community. I cannot understand why so many people dont understand why it it such a great day. I have not had Thanksgiving Day dinner with my family for the last 32 years. Our league requested that all of the Turkey Bowl teams not play, but all Thanksgiving Day teams voted to play games. It ended up not being an issue. Hopefully, we can continue this tradition long after I have retired and stopped coaching.”