An Undefeated Season

Despite technicalities, the 2012 varsity football Pioneers are an undefeated, state championship team.

The smell of Turkey is gone and December is but a day away.  What is left of Turkey Day 2012 is less permanent in the minds of most and will remain so for all days following because Kirkwood has its first Show-Me Bowl state championship trophy.  For the first time in its 114 seasons of football, Kirkwood reigns supreme in the State of Missouri and the team did so not losing a single game. 

There are those who contend that the Turkey Day Game should count against the varsity record but here are the reasons why it should not:

1979 – The 1979 Statesmen were the first Webster or Kirkwood football team to file their intent to play in the Show-Me Bowl series.  At that time, three out of four years of the Show-Me Bowl finals were held the weekend before Thanksgiving and part of the agreement in a team’s filing to play in the series is that it would play no football game after the Show-Me Bowl final games.  The 1978 Webster team is generally conceded to have been a better team than the 1979 state championship team but they had three key factors that prohibited their participation in the Show-Me Bowl series:  1) The tradition was well established and neither Webster or Kirkwood filed the required papers to participate in the Show-Me Bowl series in favor of playing on Thanksgiving Day, which would have been in violation of their signed Show-Me series agreement three of every four years.  2) Because the Statesmen’s previous season record was 5-5, it was not fully considered what the team might accomplish in 1978.  3)  The 1979 senior class had a large core of returning starters for the 1979 season and, luckily, the Show-Me Bowl Class 4A finals were being held the Saturday after Thanksgiving at Busch Stadium, in St. Louis, making the team technically eligible to play both the Turkey Day Game and in the Show-Me Bowl championship game and they had both a day break after the Turkey Day Game to prepare and it required virtually no travelling to get to the Show-Me Bowl Game. 

Other factors that allowed the 1979 team to play both in the Turkey Day Game and in the Show-Me Bowl Game were that Webster’s school population was, at the time, so large that the school could only fit sophomores through seniors in the school.  This vast amount of students gave the team a huge number from which to draw players and Kirkwood was also having a bad year in that their record by Turkey Day was 1-7.  With all of these factors in Webster’s favour, Webster’s starting players played only the first half of the game and the game was finished with its third and fourth string players.  Because of these factors, it is easy to understand why the 1979 team will likely be the only varsity team to ever play both the Turkey Day Game and the Show-Me Bowl Game in the same season.

1988:– After both schools began filing for the Show-Me Bowl series (Kirkwood began filing in 1980), in order to have a Turkey Day Game, they were required to take one of their regular season games (the one scheduled against each other) and move it to Thanksgiving Day.  Also helping the Turkey Day Game, the Show-Me Bowl Game was permanently moved to the weekend after Thanksgiving Day.  In 1988, Webster’s population had dropped to a point, for the first time, that its Missouri State High School Activities Association classification dropped one level below Kirkwood and many of its other traditional rivals.  Although the team’s overall record of 9-3 seems unworthy of a championship team, it is important to note that those losses were against its traditional rivals who were 5A competitors.  Because of the size disparity between Webster and Kirkwood and that the Show-Me Bowl championship for 4A was being held on Friday at Faurot Field, in Columbia, there was no realistic way for the schools to have a Turkey Day Game against a bigger school and then travel by bus the next day to play in a championship game.  The first cancellation of the game since 1927 caused the schools to agree that a game would be held in the future, under an agreed set of terms.  Those terms were to be decided the next time the situation was presented.

2002:– Fourteen years passed without need to discuss the details of a contingency Turkey Day Game but the 2002 Statesmen had another championship game to regard.  The issue who played in the Turkey Day Game was hotly discussed among the members of the Turkey Day Committee and the final determination was that all sophomores and freshmen, who did not play a game on varsity, would be permitted to play in the game.  Thus started the tradition of who was eligible for the game – which could have included a limited amount of time that the starting juniors and seniors played.  However, it was never agreed to allow juniors and seniors to play for any duration of time and the agreement has further changed (without discussion) so that the varsity coaches no longer coach the game and, while restricted to only sophomores and freshmen, the team not going to the Show-Me Bowl Game has had an advantage in who plays.  In effect, until 2010, every team that has made it to the Show-Me Bowl Game has lost the Turkey Day Game for several reasons:  1) It is inconceivable for a head coach to plan for two games in one week therefore he gives the planning and coaching responsibility to other coaches.  2) As Cliff Ice learned in 2003, a coach going to the Show-Me Bowl Game cannot risk any player – even sophomores and freshmen – in the Turkey Day Game that might play in the championship game.  Following his first Show-Me Bowl state championship in 2002, Webster was again in the Show-Me Bowl Game in 2003.  Unlike the previous year, Coach Ice figured he might relax and allow sophomore Robert Swapshire to play in the Turkey Day Game.  Swapshire was an infrequently used varsity player, who played some on special teams but was the only player that he had for a double-back position that he sometimes used.  In the 2003 Turkey Day Game, Swapshire had his shoulder dislocated and the “coincidence” of the injury and the 2003 Show-Me Bowl loss has never escaped the attention of the coach in future games.  3) Unlike the team playing in the Show-Me Bowl Game, the team not going has nothing to lose.  It matters not who plays in the game, and that is a large factor in why the team who is good enough to go the state final game, incidentally has always lost (except for 2010) the Turkey Day Game. 

2012:– Since 2002, and with one exception, every state finalist Webster and Kirkwood team has had its underclassmen lose the Turkey Day Game. Even when comparing the games already played in 2012 between the junior varsity teams (Kirkwood beat Webster 21-13) and between the freshmen teams (Kirkwood beat Webster 35-24), it especially does not stand to reason that the Turkey Day Game is a fair representation of a varsity game, much less a junior varsity or freshmen game.  If this game is a fair representation of a game between the schools, why would Kirkwood have its three teams (varsity, junior varsity, and freshmen) beat Webster in three games in a year but find itself unable to have a Turkey Day Game underclassmen win? 

The record for these seven “agreement games” stands at 4-3, favouring Webster.  Webster had an undefeated varsity season in 2009 (their second in school history), in addition to winning the state championship but their “underclassmen” lost the Turkey Day Game and they never had the opportunity to play Kirkwood’s varsity team.  Now, the 2012 Kirkwood Pioneers have their second undefeated varsity season and their first state championship with an “underclassmen” Turkey Day loss.  However, unlike the 2009 Statesmen, Kirkwood did have the opportunity to play Webster for the Division 2 championship – a game they won on the way to their state championship.  In effect, this year’s circumstances emphasize why there is an inequity for a state championship team in the Turkey Day Game and why it should not count on the varsity records.  It should also be noted that varsity players should not have to be concerned with who wins or loses a Turkey Day Game, when they have no means to affect its outcome.  That matter should always be determined by playing on the field and not one based on the technicality of, what many consider to be, an exhibition game.  Furthermore, it was reported that if the Kirkwood underclassmen lost the Turkey Day Game, the Suburban South Conference Championship would be a tripartite tie between Kirkwood, Webster, and Rockwood Summit.  However, similarly, Kirkwood’s varsity team beat both Webster’s varsity team and Rockwood Summit’s varsity team during the 2012 season.  Would either of these two teams also claim to share a conference championship due to a technicality against a foe to whom they legitimately lost a game? 

Doubtless, there are technicalities that must be followed because of the Missouri State High School Activities Association, but when it comes to sending varsity records to the Missouri State High School Activities Association, those records should be those that the team actually, not technically, played.   Let someone other than the schools determine if those records are inaccurate and let these players enjoy their undefeated and untied championship season.  They not only earned it – they played the games to prove it.  

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