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Turkey-bowl: A quarter-century record

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Turkey-bowl: A quarter-century record

Matt Burrows drops back to pass while Dana Clemons keeps a defender away during the 25th annual Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl Thursday morning at Woodward Park.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED November 22, 2012 10:21 p.m.

When a small church group got together to play a pickup game of flag football on Thanksgiving morning 25 years ago they had no idea they’d be starting a trend.

But Jim Todd and a handful of young churchgoers did just that.

What would formally be named the “Turkey Bowl” – started as an activity for the youth ministry of Crossroads Grace Community Church – slowly began to gain traction and attract new people every year. Before too long the multiple-games had forced the group to find a new location.

Even then nobody would have thought that the scene that unfolded at Woodward Park Thursday morning – where nearly 400 players arranged in teams of 10 to 13 packed the carefully laid out fields – would ever be on the horizon.

It has grown into a young man’s game, says Todd, and become something that organizers actually try and keep under wraps because they’ve already hit their capacity at the upper fields of Woodward Park.

“It just started to grow and grow,” Todd said. “I went in to Big 5 to pick up whistles for our referees, and the girl behind the counter asked if they were for the Turkey Bowl. She said that guys had been coming in buying athletic gloves and Under Armor.

“I think that says a lot about how far the game has come.”

Certain teams were made up of players specifically from one high school while others were a mish-mash of people from throughout the community thrown together at the last possible minute.

Regardless of the makeup, the intensity on the field was no different.

Former Manteca High quarterback Matt Burrows made the trip home from Sonoma State University – where he plays baseball – to hurl the pigskin for a Buffalo-only team that included his brother.

“It’s good old-fashioned fun – a chance to come back and hang out with friends and play a game that everybody loves to watch,” he said after winning a game against a team of East Union alums. “I know a lot of the guys out there so that makes the whole event that much better.”

The whole basis for the games, however, was the Christian message delivered at halftime.

And what better way to get a Christian message across to young men than to have a young man be the one delivering it.

Jarrod Daniels – the former Sierra High standout that broke the school all-time rushing record during his time in a Timberwolf uniform – took the reins as the halftime speaker and talked openly about how he found God and how much that discovery has changed his life.

The Idaho State student pulled no punches – sharing deep and intimate parts of his life with the hope that someone who has gone through something similar might be able to relate to his message.

Having that athletic bond only helps, he said.

“I would say that there’s a fellowship among athletes,” Daniels said. “They’re willing to let down their walls when they’re around other athletes because they know what it’s like to put in the blood, sweat and tears.

“I think it makes a big difference to hear a message like this from another young adult than someone older who may work for or be a big part of a church. It helps them be able to receive the words, and that’s what this is all about.”

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