Whether they’re sporting red or blue, the annual Turkey Bowl is synonymous with tradition for a number of local families.
The football game played between Loyola Blakefield and Calvert Hall high schools on Thanksgiving Day each year, is rife with family history as well as school spirit. The annual Turkey Bowl will take place at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ABC2 and online at abc2news.com/live .
“It’s not about a love/hate relationship with Loyola, it’s a symbol of a tradition,” said Doug Wernecke, a Calvert Hall alum and father of a Calvert Hall football player.
For Pittsburgh native Erik Moran, the father of three Loyola football players , the tradition of the Turkey Bowl is fairly new.
“It is just a wonderful tradition and I was not familiar with it when I first moved to the area,” Moran said.
Even so, the game has quickly become a crucial part of the Moran family’s Thanksgiving tradition.
“Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it,” Moran said.
Moran’s oldest son, Jonathan, is on the Dartmouth College football team now, but his roots are at Loyola.
“Jonathan played in it as a sophomore, junior and senior on the varsity team and was 0-3 against Calvert Hall,” Moran said of his eldest son’s Turkey Bowl experience. “Two out of three were very close games.”
Moran’s middle son, Connor, played in the annual holiday game in 2013. Again, the game was tight, but the Dons ultimately fell to the Cardinals, 21-14 on a late 83-yard touchdown pass.
“We are really hoping to break that trend this year,” Moran said.
Moran added there is a friendly sibling rivalry between his older sons when it comes to the Turkey Bowl. While both boys are extremely supportive of each other, there is some playful pressure for a win against Calvert Hall.
Moran isn’t the only one with more than one son who has played in the Turkey Bowl. Lisa Hurley is the mother of four Loyola football players.
Hurley’s sons, 2005 graduate John Henry and 2005 graduate Phillip Clayton, both played in Turkey Bowls during their time at Loyola.
Her sons Jack and Luke also got their chances. Jack was a senior in 2013 and Luke is a junior. In addition to her sons, Lisa Hurley is also tied to the Turkey Bowl through her brother, a former Loyola Blakefield president and 1965 graduate, who was part of a co-championship football team during his time at Loyola.
“There’s a little bit of history there with all four of my kids,” Hurley said, later adding, “There’s a lot of smack talking, but they are also supportive.”
Hurley said her sons aren’t the only ones taking part in friendly banter this year. Hurley’s daughter recently became engaged to a Calvert Hall alum.
“He won’t be allowed on the other side, not if he wants to eat later,” Hurley joked.
Cole Wernecke's family has a deep Turkey Bowl tradition. His father is a 1975 Calvert Hall graduate who played offensive guard and linebacker for the co-championship team that year.
“My dad went to Calvert Hall, and following in his footsteps that means a lot to me, too,” Cole Wernecke said.
When asked if he could imagine Thanksgiving without the Turkey Bowl, the younger Wernecke’s answer was emphatic.
“No. Just no,” Cole Wernecke said.
Playing in the Turkey Bowl, eating Thanksgiving dinner and either attending a Ravens game or watching football on television are all irreplaceable holiday essentials for young Wernecke.
While Cole Wernecke is confident the Cardinals will walk away with a win each year, many agree that the Turkey Bowl is memorable, no matter who wins.
“No matter how the seasons are going for either team—and this year the season is not going perhaps as well as we would like it to—we still get excited for that game,” Moran said.
Players and family members on both sides agree the Turkey Bowl is always a game that stands out.
“They don’t remember what games were won and lost, but they definitely remember who won the Turkey Bowl,” Hurley said.
The same goes for families with ties to Calvert Hall.
“It is probably the number one or single most important game that Calvert Hall has,” Calvert Hall alum Wernecke said.
Logan Kurek, a Calvert Hall alum and wide receiver who caught the game-winning touchdown in 2013, said winning the Turkey Bowl was possibly his favorite personal football moment to date.
“I think it’s the most pumped up I’ve been of any of the championships I’ve been in,” Kurek said.