AREA NEWSThe White Plains Examiner

Turkey Bowl in White Plains

We are part of The Trust Project

Two local football teams square off on the gridiron today at White Plains High School for a very special game – the 2011 Turkey Bowl. It will be the 41st time the Turkey Bowl has been played between the Stepinac Crusaders and the White Plains Tigers. Last season the Crusaders were victorious 42-14 over the Tigers. In fact, the Crusaders have won four out of the last five Turkey Bowls.

These teams come into the game under two totally different circumstances. The Crusaders are coming off a tough loss to St. Anthony’s last Friday in the CHSFL AAA Championship game. “We brought kids in on Sunday. We talked about the importance of our Senior finishing their careers the right way after such a tough loss. Kids and coaches alike left heart & souls on field on Friday night. But we realize that we have an opportunity to finish season on a high note,” said Crusaders head coach Mike O’Donnell about the loss to St. Anthony’s and getting ready to play White Plains.

The Tigers haven’t played a game in a few weeks. Their last game was an overtime bowl victory over Scarsdale. They suffered several key injuries in the game against Scarsdale. Two of their starting running backs were hurt and the Tigers aren’t sure if they will be available to play on Thursday. Head coach Skip Stevens has been happy with the way his team has been practicing coming into the game against the Crusaders. “The team is practicing well, it hurts to be off so long but we will be ready,” said Stevens.

This game should come down to the battle on the offensive and defensive line. The Tigers have yet to face a team with a pass rush like the Crusaders. In the last few games, Crusaders senior Austin Taps and Garfield Heslop have been racking up a lot of sacks. If the Tigers offensive line can’t contain these two players it’s going to be a very long afternoon for Tigers senior quarterback Jeff Avery.

What Avery has going for him is that he has the best arm of any quarterback in the game and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tigers air the ball out more against the Crusaders. The Tigers will be facing a defense that just held possibly the best offensive team in the state, St. Anthony’s, to just 14 points. This is a remarkable feat considering St. Anthony’s scoring more than 50 points against the Crusaders when they met in the regular season in the middle of October.

When the Crusaders have the ball it will be interesting to watch what head coach Mike O’Donnell does with his quarterback situation. Throughout the season he has usually allowed the two junior quarterbacks, Daniel Hoffer and Mark White, to start on alternative possessions. Hoffer had a lot of trouble throwing the ball against St. Anthony’s, never finding his rhythm. When Hoffer is on he has a strong arm and you could look for him to connect on long passes to Taps and Vincent Narog. Taps and Narog are to very tall receivers and that could cause a little trouble for the Tigers defense in terms of how to match up against those receivers.

When Mark White is in at quarterback the Tigers defense faces a different dilemma in White’s quickness and explosive running speed if he finds the right holes in opposing defenses. When the Tigers played Scarsdale they had a very tough time containing their running game until the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime. White has the potential to put up some big time running numbers if he isn’t contained by the Tigers defense quickly. The Tigers have proven they can stop a marquee running quarterback when they played at New Rochelle in the playoffs. Their hard hitting defense clearly took the New Rochelle’s quarterback out of his comfort zone quickly and at one point he had to leave the game due to injury.

One of the keys to this game will be how many points are scored. The Tigers don’t want to get in a shootout with the Crusaders. It would be to their benefit to keep this a low-scoring affair and play hard hitting football. The Tigers need to establish a running game early which would allow Avery to air the ball out which would be fun to watch with his the strength of his arm.

This game has a sentimental feeling since this is the seniors last high school football game in uniform. “Our seniors have had one of the greatest runs in schools history. It will bring to a close a chapter in their lives but it starts the next one. Our seniors have achieved so many goals on and off the field. We are very proud of what they have accomplished and are excited to see what the future will bring for them. It is a perfect way to sound them off on a big stage,” said O’Donnell about his seniors playing their last game.

The Turkey Bowl is also a very special day for the city of White Plains according to O’Donnell. “It is the best day in the City of White Plains each year. People come back to town to visit and love the great atmosphere of the game. It is a big social event,” said O’Donnell. “The Game is the first time many of these kids put on a football uniform. It is a very special day for both schools.”

With either outcome the community of White Plains will be treated to some wonderful football before they head home for a Turkey meal.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.