Walking onto the field at Rio Norte Junior High School on Wednesday afternoon, a voice could be heard over the public address system.
“It’s bigger than the World Series, the World Cup and World War II combined, it’s the Rio Norte Turkey Bowl!”
While there was obvious playfulness in the announcer’s voice, the coaches and eighth grade players for both the red and blue teams were all business by the time the whistle blew for the 16th annual Rio Norte Turkey Bowl, which the red team won 16-8.
The red team received the ball first and engineered a scoring drive on their first possession with a series of sweeping pitches and quick passes.
They capped off the drive with a trick play, as the quarterback pitched the ball to his receiver, who then dropped back and passed to an open receiver for the touchdown.
“We gave the boys a bunch of plays and we kind of let them pick which ones work best,” said Adam Yassaman, one of the coaches for the red team. “They did a good job of finding a play that would work in that situation. It was all the students. They called the plays, they ran the plays. It was awesome.”
The blue team tried to answer back on the next drive, gaining a big chunk of yardage and a first down on their first play of the game.
They were inching closer to scoring, but a dropped ball in the end zone on fourth down turned the ball back over to the red team.
Trailing 8-0 at halftime, the blue team came out with a plan of attack in the second half, driving down the field quickly to even the score at 8-8 after scoring on a two-point conversion.
It didn’t take long for the red team to answer back, as they were able to move down the field after a series of big pass plays.
The red team scored and completed their second two-point conversion to make the score 16-8.
“We kind of put some things together and we told the kids have fun,” said Chris Stroh, who coached the red team alongside Yassaman. “We told them, ‘If you want to add something to it, add something to it,’ and so we’ve been working on the plays for the past couple of days and it worked out well.”
The blue team was unable to get things going after the second red team score, and their quarterback was intercepted off a tipped pass on the ensuing possession.
The red team was able to run down most of the clock after the turnover, punting the ball back to the blue team with 47 seconds left in the game.
With one last chance, the blue team spread out their wide receivers to try and get open and drive the ball downfield, but the blue team’s quarterback was intercepted once again, sealing the victory for the red team.
After the game, both teams shook hands as their supporters spilled out onto the field.
While the red team was ecstatic about winning, the Turkey Bowl represents so much more than a final score in a football game:
It’s about bringing the community together to have fun and celebrate the start of the holiday season as a collective.
“The Rio Norte community is so good, not only the parents, the staff, the kids, but everybody makes this day so special,” Stroh said. “I’m just happy everybody had fun and everybody had a good time today.”
“Rio Norte P.E. and the Turkey Bowl is the best thing in the valley,” added Yassaman.
While the dust started to settle after the game, Stroh and Yassaman began to gather their things to head off the field.
Before they could leave, the red team surprised their coaches with their own take of a “Gatorade shower,” pouring water all over the two men.
“This is definitely a first for me. Getting doused in water at a Turkey Bowl, so I think it was a little more special today,” Stroh said.