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Turkey Day means Turkey Bowl

Friends gather for football and fun

Posted: November 27, 2008 6:40 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Cameron Kelly, 17, a student at Canyon High School, was one of a dozen friends who got together at Valencia Glen Park for a Turkey Bowl football game Thursday morning.

No TV station carried the great Santa Clarita Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving Day, and that suited a dozen sweaty traditionalists just fine.

A ragtag band of young men responded to the text message their pal Eric Marquez sent them earlier in the week: "Turkey Bowl, Valencia Glen Park, Thanksgiving morning, be there."

"We figured we could lose some weight and regain it all later on," said Alex Mata, 17, of Canyon High School.

You won't find the Turkey Bowl in a book on football statistics, but the tradition of playing football in the park on Thanksgiving Day has been going on for the last half century.

So, when Marquez put the word out that the Turkey Bowl was on, at least a dozen of his pals showed up ready to play full-out, no pads, full-contact football in the grass and mud.

"The sun wasn't shining that bright when I got up," Mata said. "It's a bunch of us get together to play football."

Turkey Bowl teams reflected no particular school or color, with participants from Canyon and Hart high schools and College of the Canyons all having fun.

"All the good-looking guys are on our team," Mata joked.

The important thing was just getting up off the couch to play, he and others told The Signal.

There's plenty of time for TV and turkey later in the day, they added.

What they have to be thankful for on this national day of reflection is partly that no one ended up with a broken bone or open wound.

"It's tackle, not touch," said Cameron Kelly, 17, of Canyon High School, as he paused for some water at the park drinking fountain.

Just before halftime, he fought his way through shorts-tugging, shirt-grabbing, shoulder-throwing tacklers, zig-zagging his way across the width of the field to dive unchecked and with great flare into the end zone.

Those who flung themselves at Kelly trying to bring him down included Eric Rigg and Raymond Hernandez, both 17, of Canyon High School, and Greg Olsen, 18.

Other spectacular plays made in the morning sun on a wet field sprinkled with leaves were executed by Mike Schwamb and Michael Cornelius, both 22.

Most of the passes were perfect spirals - short quick blasts in a straight line with no arc and huge sweeping 30-yard-long bombs - and all of the catches were made with 100 percent commitment.

With no pads but plenty of contact, and with no one wearing football gear or even cleats, the Turkey Bowl came down to just sweat on sweat.

"I'm on the freshman team at Hart," said 14-year-old Caleb Lunetta. "And we're told that we don't hold back. If we do, we get in trouble."

At the Turkey Bowl, however, everyone knows how to hit hard without hurting.

"We kind of keep like self-discipline," Kelly said.

Returning to the field from their half-time break, with the score tied at six touchdowns apiece - no uprights available for any extra points - the players split up at either end of the 35-yard field, marked off with ropes and pencils poked through cardboard yard-markers.

"We thought we'd just get together and play on Thanksgiving," said Kyle Linn, 18, of College of the Canyons.

"We eat and watch football but that's in the evening," Marquez said. "Football comes first - playing it, that is."

Huddles were brief at the Turkey Bowl. Timing was measured in "Mississippis," and the calls like "Poison" and "Wildcat" and "Halle Barry, Halle Barry, Halle Barry" sounded more exotic than those heard at the professional level.

Near the end, the score remained tied but players were too busy laughing and falling on the ground to notice or care which team actually scored the winning touchdown.

Marquez was hurt in the last few moments of play.

His older brother, Eddie, walked off the field with him as he limped to the sidelines.

"Now he has an excuse to lie on the couch, put his feet up and watch TV," said the older brother.

"True, true," said the limping one.

"But he would have done that anyway," Eddie Marquez said.


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