2019 Turkey Bowls turns into a high-scoring affair

Rio Norte eighth-grader Jordan Cardenas runs the ball in the annual Rio Norte Junior High School Turkey Bowl Friday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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By Bryanna Winner

For The Signal

The competition at the Rio Norte Turkey Bowl began even before the first play. During stretches, the two teams were in competition to see who could be louder.

The eighth-graders from both teams began trying to distract the others while coaches playfully barked at the referees and each other as the red team won the game 46-39 in a come-from-behind win.

Blue received first and immediately scored the first touchdown of the 2019 Turkey Bowl before red answered back with their own to tie it up. It was a back-and-forth game as the blue team led 20-18 at halftime.

“We told them to look for the mismatches. Sometimes there’s a taller receiver on a corner, maybe throw it up high, communicate what works and don’t give up,” said P.E. teacher and red team coach Aaron Burleson of his halftime speech. 

The red team certainly didn’t give up though as they scored on their first play of the second half and completed the two-point conversion for their first lead of the game. 

Rio Norte eighth-grader Aiden Voyles throws a pass in the annual Rio Norte Junior High School Turkey Bowl Friday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The red team refused to relinquish the lead as both teams continued to put points on the board, giving the red team their second straight win. During the 2018 Turkey Bowl, the red team took the 16-8 win.

“Certainly in the 10 years I’ve been here, it’s been the highest-scoring game,” said ASB director and history teacher Matt Sheridan. “It is usually in the 20s is the highest you would get. It is very rare that you would get a score up there like that.”

“For some reason, this is the highest-scoring game we’ve ever had and it was a lot of fun,” said Burleson.

After the red defense stuffed the blue offense to end the game, the entire team charged the field and cheered in the end zone before both teams shook hands.

Even though the coaches created the plays, the players take control when it comes to what to use and whether a specific play is working. 

“The coaches develop the plays together and we let the kids pick the ones they want to use. They are pretty good at knowing what works and using the players they have to make it work in the game,” said Burleson. “It’s always a little stressful but we depend on the kids to call the plays while they are out there.’”

Rio Norte eighth-grader Manuel Ortiz runs the ball into the end zone in the annual Rio Norte Junior High School Turkey Bowl Friday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal


It was much more than just a game or tradition, it’s about the community coming together for some fun, especially after last week’s events.

“It’s a tradition and I think right now if you look at what’s been happening in our valley in the last week and a half, the community has been such a big part of everything, realizing that while we’re not a super small city compared to others around the world, we are a very tight-knit community,” said Sheridan.

While this is Rio Norte’s biggest tradition, it wasn’t the only one of the day. The eighth-graders had a pep rally prior to the game that featured another tradition: turkey bowling.

“There’s just a lot of good tradition in it, we had a rally earlier in the day too and it’s fun,” said Sheridan. “It’s been a tradition that we actually do turkey bowling with frozen turkeys which actually go to the winning coaches.” 

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