For the third straight year and sixth time in the last 10 years, the annual Kirkwood-Webster Groves Turkey Day Game will not feature varsity squads.
The annual Thanksgiving Day matchup between Kirkwood and Webster has been a tradition since 1907. The two teams met nearly 100 times in that span with the Frisco Bell and year-long bragging rights on the line for the winning team.
But in recent years, the Turkey Day Classic has been played with a little twist.
Specifically, it has become a showdown between the schools' junior varsity teams because one of the two varsity teams had earned itself a shot at the Show-Me Bowl State Football Championship game, which is usually played on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving.
In 2009 and 2010, as it was in 2002 and 2003, it was Webster Groves that requested the junior varsity teams play the Turkey Day game because the Statesmen varsity were in the state championship.
But this year, as it was in 2006, it is Kirkwood. The Pioneer's tremendous victory in the state football semifinals over Hazelwood East on Saturday has advanced the team to the state championship game, thus the need to let the junior varsity team play in the Turkey Day Game.
A potential Kirkwood-Webster varsity matchup on Thanksgiving would have been a state championship-caliber contest with two of the state’s best teams squaring off at Kirkwood's Lyons Field.
Both teams were also ranked in last week’s statewide Top 10 Poll. The 12-0 Pioneers ranked No. 2, and the 9-2 Statesmen ranked No. 5 before being eliminated from from title contention by Parkway Central.
So instead of stars like Rayshawn Simmons and Demetrius Robinson for Webster, or B.J. Buckner and Mike McHugh for Kirkwood, it’ll be the future stars like Webster’s Rishon Loper and Maurice “Big Mo” Brown and Kirkwood’s Scott Connor and Antonio Weston that’ll take center stage on Thursday afternoon.
Loper, Brown and fellow sophomore Brion Sanders, were all standouts on the Webster Groves junior varisty team this year and even spent some time on varsity.
While Connor and Weston didn’t play much for the Pioneer varsity team, the quarterback and wide receiver duo did show some big play capabilities in several games this year.
Kickoff for Thursday’s Turkey Day Classic is set for noon, at Kirkwood’s Lyons Field with an overflow crowd of more than 4,000 expected to be in attendance.
TURKEY DAY GAME NOTES: Webster leads the all-time series 51-40 over Kirkwood, with five ties and eight seasons in which no game was played at all. Last year, current Webster junior Marlon Peal scored two touchdowns, including a thrilling 75-yard kickoff return to lead the Statesmen to a 14-12 win over the Pioneers at Moss Field in Webster Groves. Kirkwood’s last win in the Turkey Day Game was in 2009 when current seniors B.J. Buckner and Mike McHugh led the Pioneers to a 32-13 win over the Statesmen at Lyons Field.