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Turkey Bowl a feather in Crossroads cap
Annual event now includes 19 games at Woodward Park
Jordan Dabney turns the corner during a Turkey Bowl game Thursday morning at Woodward Park. Crossroads Grace Community Church started the event which boasted nearly 450 participants with eight church members 26 years ago. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

“But we drove here from San Jose and Elk Grove,” pleaded two of the teams that showed up the 26th annual Crossroads Grace “Turkey Bowl” Thursday morning.

“Then you should have left a little bit sooner,” church outreach pastor Jim Todd quipped.

Yes, it has come to that.

The days of eight young men throwing the pigskin around at Northgate Park on Thanksgiving morning are long gone, and the modern incarnation of “The Turkey Bowl” – where teams actually get uniforms made and practice weeks in advance – is here to stay.

It’s also at the point where it has outgrown every single home it has ever had and will likely face the same fate at Woodward Park relatively soon – venturing, for the first time this year, into park’s lower bowl and signifying the last push of expansion before capacity is reached.

Starting next year, Todd said, teams will be able to register online the week before for a nominal fee and bypass the cramped tables the morning of the event. The money that the event takes in ends up getting donated to Love INC (Love In The Name of Christ) who in turn outfits the less fortunate by promoting self-sufficiency and accountability over blanket handouts.

“People just keep coming each year – we had 422 people register this year,” Todd said. “We don’t advertise anymore because it’s gotten so big, but people show up while it’s still dark outside – they’re out there stretching while we’re lining up the fields.

“This year we’ve got 19 games going and it’s the first time that we’ve actually had to turn teams away. It’s getting to that point.”

For the last several years Morgan Allman has been putting a team of guys from work together to add a little bit of fun during what is typically a bland holiday season in the office.

Touchdowns are good for bragging rights for months, Allman said, and even though they’re not getting any younger they certainly feel like they when they strap on cleans and step out onto the field.

“I think each of us ends up paying for it for the next week, but football and Thanksgiving go together,” he said. “It gives us all something to look forward to, and it’s a true community tradition. We’re just glad to be a part of it.”