Turkey Bowl XXV: New Canaan, Darien football captains ready for another showdown

The 2015 Darien Blue Wave hoist the Coaches Memorial Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Turkey Bowl each season. —Dave Stewart photo

There will be plenty on the line when the New Canaan Rams and Darien Blue Wave football teams meet at Stamford’s Boyle Stadium on Thanksgiving morning.

For the Rams, it’s a shot at qualifying for the state tournament and retaining the Coaches Memorial Trophy for another year. For the Wave, it’s a chance to improve their playoff seeding, nail down a quarterfinal home game, and gain some revenge for last year’s loss in the holiday game.

While all that is in play, the rivalry atmosphere surrounding the annual Turkey Bowl game isn’t lost on the captains of either team.

“There’s nothing like it,” New Canaan’s Garrett Braden said. “You can feel the significance and everyone wants to go to that game. It’s another game for us in the sense that we have our game plan and we’re going to do our jobs, but stepping onto that field, you can feel the significance — It’s the Turkey Bowl.”

“Our team is a family and this game has that family atmosphere,” Darien’s Connor Fay said. “It’s early in the morning, you see a lot of people out there from your town trying to support you. It’s inspiring going out there. We’re playing for each other and playing for the town.”

Darien and New Canaan will kick off at 10:30 a.m. at Stamford’s Boyle Stadium, which will be hosting the Turkey Bowl for the second straight season. The game was moved there last season to better accommodate the large crowd which is typically in attendance.

The Wave comes in with a 9-0 record and a 12-game win streak dating back to last year’s Class LL tournament. Darien has won 46 of its last 47 games with the lone defeat coming in last year’s Turkey Bowl, 27-0, to New Canaan.

“We’re thirsty just to get after it,” Wave senior co-captain Bruce Ferguson said. “That was the last loss that we’ve had and it definitely gave us a little bit of extra motivation in the offseason. It’s always the Darien-New Canaan rivalry, and that won’t change too much for me, I always want to beat them.”

The Wave has the benefit of having clinched a Class LL playoff berth and while a loss could cost them a home game in the state quarterfinals, they at least know they’ll be playing again when the playoffs begin on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The Rams (7-2), however, aren’t quite as fortunate. Two early losses to St. Joseph and Greenwich knocked them back in the rankings and although they’ve seemingly righted the ship with a four-game win streak, they can’t afford another loss.

“It is a must-win game,” New Canaan senior co-captain Quintin O’Connell said. “We’ve know we’ve got to win and we believe in ourselves. At this point, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re playing ourselves. If we execute the way we know we’re able to, then we’ll be confident in that game.”

Beyond the on field match-ups and Xs and Os is the 91-year history of the rivalry, which will gain another chapter on Thursday morning.

“The game is basically what you dream of all the way up through DJFL (Darien Junior Football League),” Ferguson said. “This was a little bit of a problem for us last year — we had so much emotion coming into this game. We’ve got to find a way to controls those emotions, stick to our game, and pretend it’s like a practice. We’ve just got to play confident.”

“We obviously know the relationship and the history New Canaan has with Darien,” Braden said. “But it’s just another game that we’ve got to win in order to keep the season going and reach our goals. We’re excited for it and confident because we’ve been putting in a lot of preparation.”