My story on the cancellation of the 2014 Turkey Bowl:
With no football to fill their Thanksgiving morning last year, Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell and his White Plains counterpart, Skip Stevens, shared breakfast. This year, O’Donnell hopes he and his team will spend at least part of their holiday at practice, preparing to play for a state title.
“If we don’t have a game, I will probably have breakfast somewhere with Coach Stevens to fill our void,” O’Donnell said.
One thing is certain: For the second straight year, Stepinac and White Plains won’t play their annual Turkey Bowl. The schools announced Tuesday that their tradition has been put on hold again, this time citing Stepinac’s uncertain playoff schedule.
Last year, despite taking a bye rather than playing a non-league/rivalry game during the regular season, White Plains was forced to withdraw from the Turkey Bowl after winning the Section 1 Class AA championship.
“If they ever make us count our rivalry week (toward playoff qualification), we won’t be able to take a bye,” Stevens said. “There’s so much going on in high school football in the section and in the state, there’s real concern that this great tradition could end.”
In the short term at least, the concern is muted. Stepinac is pointed toward one of the most important games in program history Saturday when the Crusaders will meet rival Iona Prep for the CHSFL AAA championship. The winner will earn a berth in the first Catholic state championship at Hofstra the following week.
According to New York state’s Sports Standards, Stepinac must have four days’ rest between games, meaning the team would be forbidden from squeezing a Turkey Bowl between the two championships.
O’Donnell, who is also the athletic director, said the schools discussed alternatives, including: his team playing White Plains with a split roster; holding the game on Thanksgiving Eve; or trying to push the Catholic state final to a later date. For various reasons, none was feasible.
“Both schools tried everything possible to make the game possible this year,” O’Donnell said. “Our success this year is the reason the game is being canceled. It has nothing to do with the state or anyone not allowing it.”
The cancellation of last year’s Turkey Bowl ended a consecutive 42-year run that dated to 1971. Crowds typically totaled in the thousands for an event that served as an informal reunion for alumni of both schools.
Despite just a 2-6 season this year, White Plains held seven practices and multiple team meetings since last playing Nov. 1. The team could have continued to practice, but there was no guarantee that it would result in a game.
“Hey, they’re having a great season,” Stevens said. “I’ve been pulling for them all season and I’ll be pulling for them this week, too. We wish them all the best.”