It hasn’t been the greatest season for both White Plains and Stepinac. The Tigers finished 1-6 in an injury-plagued season, while Stepinac advanced to the CHSFL AAA quarterfinals but lost in overtime in heartbreaking fashion to St. Joseph-by-the-Sea after leading 14-0.
Both teams have a shot at redemption in the 42nd Turkey Bowl on Thursday.
“We’ve been saying it since the season ended; if we beat Stepinac, it will make our whole season better,” said White Plains captain Robbie Lorden. “It’s been a real tough year, but if we beat Stepinac, it will be worth it. We have all this pepped up energy and we will be ready for them.”
Both teams have a tough task heading into the storied rivalry game; dealing with time. Stepinac has only three days of rest after playing in their playoff game on Sunday, and will use most of the time recovering and going over the Tigers’ schemes on both sides of the ball.
“It was difficult; we lost in overtime and (the team) was pretty heartbroken,” said Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell. “You have to pick up the pieces and do the best you can. We talked a lot about our seniors and how great they are. We want to send them out the right way. It’s very important for us to forget what just happened and get right up to speed and ready for Thursday.”
However, the Tigers will deal with time in a much different way. White Plains last played on October 19, 34 days before Thanksgiving. This may give the Tigers plenty of time to prepare but it hasn’t been easy.
“It’s tough not knowing what to expect going in, besides that it’s going to be a great event,” said White Plains coach Skip Stevens. “Being off as long as we have been, it’s tough to know what you’re going to get. But if we go out on a good note, it can propel us into the next season. Going out with a W on Thanksgiving will really put us in a good place.”
Five Turkey Bowl Questions With Stepinac’s Mike O’Donnell
Best Turkey Bowl Moment?: “Two years ago, we finished our undefeated season with a Turkey Bowl win. That was like the ultimate day. When you go 12-0 and finish it on Thanksgiving, it’s an unbelievable event.”
Best Turkey Bowl Performance?: “That same day by Tyrell Goodman. He was all-everything. He ran the ball, he did everything he needed to do. He is an unbelievable player and he showed it on that day.”
Favorite Turkey Bowl Game?: “The game back in 1987. Devin McDonald intercepted a ball in the last minute on a screen pass and took it for a touchdown to seal the win. The place went wild and the stadium emptied out onto the field. It was a pretty great moment and it was the first time we had beaten them in a long time. I wasn’t the head coach at the time but it was an unbelievable game.”
Difference Between Turkey Bowl and a Regular Game?: “There’s no doubt, it’s because you know it’s the final game. It’s the seniors’ last performance and you get a chance to play against White Plains. The coaching staffs are friendly and you get to see a lot of former players. It’s really just a community event. It’s the last game and you know this is it.”
What Does it mean to Partake in the Turkey Bowl?: “I don’t remember what it’s like not to partake in it. This is my 32nd game. My family doesn’t even eat Thanksgiving dinner with me because it’s such an important day at the school (note: O’Donnell is also the athletic director for Stepinac). My family goes to our relatives and I don’t bother them. We eat together on Friday, but you can see how important it is to our community.”
Five Turkey Bowl Questions With White Plains’ Skip Stevens
Best Turkey Bowl Moment?: “I don’t remember exactly what year it was, but Stepinac was driving to try and win late. They had the ball on the 2-yard line and went for it on fourth down and we were able to knock the pass down and win the game. The reaction of the crowd was great.”
Best Turkey Bowl Performance?: “My first year here, we had Conor Gilmartin. He’s on our staff now and he took the game into his hands. We were able to come out with a 7-0 win because of him.”
Favorite Turkey Bowl Game?: “My favorite Turkey Bowl has to be my first as a head coach. Being a part of the game as an assistant was special, but taking over as head coach was just amazing. It was one of the most special days I’ve had.”
Difference Between Turkey Bowl and a Regular Game?: “With the Turkey Bowl, it’s the inter-city rivalry. Catholic school against public school. The kids know each other and come away with bragging rights. No other game is like that.”
What Does it mean to Partake in the Turkey Bowl?: “It’s really just a special day. The kids get to stay together for a lot longer than most teams and, even though it can hurt at times with the gap between games, you get to be a part of the team for that much longer. As a coach, you’re with your team and with your seniors for another three or four weeks. It’s awesome.”
“They could be a completely different team after 34 days of practice. They always bring their A-game, there’s no doubt about that.” – Stepinac’s Mike O’Donnell
“My brother played in the game and I was his water boy. Just experiencing it and knowing what it means to the alumni and the communities around the school is incredible. The winner runs the town.” – Stepinac quarterback Dan Hoffer
“It’s very hard playing; it’s the last time you’re there with the rest of your seniors. I’ve been with these guys since I was a freshman and I’ll never play high school football with them again. It’s emotional. It’s scary.” – White Plains’ Ari Shamery
“It’s really intense in the locker room. Everyone is hyped up to play on both teams. They are going to bring it to us and we’re going to push it right back.” – Stepinac’s Tom Dedivani
“I live in White Plains and it’s just crazy right now. When I’m out with my friends it’s all we talk about. Everything is riled up. It makes me happy.” – Stepinac’s Sterling Lovelock
“We almost get in fist fights with each other leading up to the game because it’s so intense. Against Stepinac, it’s going to be a heavyweight battle.” – White Plains’ Robbie Lorden
“You have to just play the game. There’s going to be a lot of hype around it, but you just have to play.” – Stepinac’s Dan Pomposello
“It’s a sad moment. You hate to say goodbye to everybody. We won and lost together. We came in and came out together. It’s real hard, but nothing lasts forever.” – White Plains’ Elijah Young
Matchup: White Plains (1-6) vs. Archbishop Stepinac (3-6)
When: Thanksgiving Day, 10:30 a.m.
Where: White Plains High School
What: The Turkey Bowl is THE game for both White Plains and Stepinac. The two teams play every season and the game is so important that Stepinac would have played even if they had advanced in the CHSFL AAA playoffs.
Current Season: Both teams have had disappointing seasons by their standards. White Plains is 1-6 with their only win coming against Arlington, while Stepinac lost in the CHSFL AAA quarterfinals in overtime to St. Joseph-by-the-Sea after a 3-5 season.
Previous Meetings: White Plains leads the Turkey Bowl series 27-14, but Stepinac has won the last two years and five of the past six games.
History:This is the 42nd meeting between White Plains and Stepinac, but the Tigers have been playing on Thanksgiving since 1932. The first “Turkey Bowl” was played at White Plains against Indiana state champion Central High School. For years, White Plains played state champions from around the country until the yearly meeting with Stepinac was born.
- The longest winning streak for either team was 8 games by White Plains (1989-1996).
- White Plains has been undefeated 15 times in school history but only twice since they started playing Stepinac.
- The Turkey Bowl was held at Highlands Middle school, White Plains’ old high school, until 2008 when the current high school stadium was built.
Time off: This seems to be the story every year, but the importance in this season’s game is unprecedented. White Plains will not have played for 34 days on Thursday while Stepinac has only three days of rest after playing in their playoff game on Sunday.
Breakdown: White Plains
Robbie Lorden– Lorden is a heart-and-soul kind of guy for the Tigers and has a big impact in all facets of the game. He is big, tough and physical and will need to step up against Stepinac’s physical style of play.
Ceasar Cantori– Another tough, gritty player, Cantori is a fan favorite. He is not the biggest lineman but he makes up for it with the way he attacks the game. Cantori is the type of player you notice.
Chris Jordan– Jordan is a strong back who is surprisingly shifty for his size. White Plains has a rich history of powerful running backs and the junior could be next in line.
Brandon Williams– Williams is a gifted athlete who may have been the X-Factor anyway, but he will need to play an even bigger role in the Turkey Bowl. Starting quarterback Cameron Crabbe will miss the game because he was ejected in the Tigers’ final game of the regular season (Oct. 19) after a facemask call was deemed too rough. White Plains’ coach Skip Stevens will meet with Section 1 officials on Tuesday to discuss overturning the suspension, but if Crabbe is out, Williams will take over at quarterback and must be at his best for the Tigers to succeed.
Dan Hoffer– No surprise here. Hoffer is the motor behind Stepinac’s offense and the Crusaders rely on him to move the ball. Stepinac will spread it around, but when it’s said and done, Hoffer’s arm may determine the game.
Ryan Burnett– One of the leading rushers in the county, Burnett is a hard-worker and balances Hoffer nicely. White Plains will prepare for Hoffer to throw which could lead to Burnett having big game.
Tom Dedivani– The captain and leader for the Stepinac defense, Dedivani is a catalyst for the Crusaders front line. O’Donnell gave Dedivani one of the biggest praises he’s given saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play harder than he does all the time.”
Justin Thomas– Stepinac spreads the ball around but when Hoffer and Thomas are on the same page, the Crusaders are a different team. Thomas is fast and agile and can compete with the best athletes on White Plains. If Thomas’ name is being called on Thursday, Stepinac will be in business.
The loss of quarterback Cameron Crabbe could be devastating, but White Plains has had more than a month to be ready for it. The Stepinac staff is great at preparing their players and, though they won’t have much time, the Crusaders will be in full game-mode by Thursday. This one will be closer than expected, but Hoffer will be the difference and lead Stepinac to their third straight Turkey Bowl win. Stepinac 22, White Plains 8