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Turkey Day football changes in New Jersey and California

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

There was a time when Turkey Day football was the biggest scholastic sporting event of the  year, and it wasn't even long ago. States across the country celebrated the truly American holiday in a truly American way; by watching teenagers play football. Yet, in some parts of the country, that once sacrosanct tradition is now under fire, with football games and practices being moved away from Thanksgiving Day in favor of Thanksgiving Eve or, in some cases, off the weekend altogether.

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Kingsway football

Kingsway football

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, more and more New Jersey schools have looked into moving their traditional Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl rivalries to Thanksgiving Eve in an attempt to give their players more time with their families on the holiday.

"People are so busy and do so much traveling to get to Thanksgiving dinner," Kingsway athletic director Joe Galliera, whose school hosted rival Clearview on Wednesday, told the Inquirer. "This creates more of an opportunity for people to have more time to spend with their families.

"We talked with the adminstration, the school board, a lot of different people. Most people seem to think it's a good idea."

While the loss of an annual pastime might seem like a major sacrifice for schools across the state, a number of programs have stepped forward expressing excitement about moving the biggest game of the year to the night before the biggest football holiday of them all.

Those sentiments have been shared by Inquirer columnist Phil Anastasia, who said that moving away from games on Thanksgiving shouldn't be seen as waving a white flag on football tradition.

"We're looking forward to playing under the lights," Cherry Hill East coach Tom Coen told the Inquirer. "It's exciting for our kids and it enables more people to spend more time with their family on Thanksgiving."

Increased family time appears to be the driving motivation behind changes in Los Angeles as well, but there's a distinct difference in sun drenched Southern California: High schools there haven't traditionally competed on Thanksgiving Day.

Instead, teams still in the California Interscholastic Federation City Section playoffs have often used Thanksgiving as a key practice day for Friday night playoff games. Starting in 2011, that won't be allowed after City Section assistant commissioner John Aguirre declared that teams in his section wouldn't be allowed to practice on the holiday.

Normally, a missed Thursday practice wouldn't be considered the end of the world, but with entire seasons on the line less than 24 hours later, some City Section teams are understandably upset that they won't get the chance for a final walk-thru before facing their biggest game of the season.

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