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Turkey Bowl Raises Money for State High Scholarships, Brings Generations Together

by on November 28, 2014 4:00 PM

There was a homecoming in State College on Friday, but there was no parade.

There was a memorial, but no tears. There was a competition, but no real losers.

Friday was the annual Turkey Bowl at Memorial Field. Dozens of former State High football players -- some from only last year, some from as far back as the 90s -- gathered to support a new generation of current State High students.

Chris Ganter, a former State High quarterback, says the event evolved from a simple post-Thanksgiving football game to a charitable tournament that helps tie the maroon and grey community together. Last year, contributions from event participants and supporters raised $15,000, which supported a number of scholarships for this year's senior class. With 14 teams from different graduating classes, Ganter has hope they'll come close to that number for the second year in a row.

"We all share something special through State High football, even if we hadn't met before this," Ganter says. "I don't know of anywhere else that does something like this."

This year, the players on the field were supporting scholarships once again, honoring the memories of their namesakes.

Jason Miller, an State High alumnus from 2005, was happy to to play in memory of former State High athlete Brandon Ream. Miller graduated a couple years after Ream, who was always supportive and encouraging to the younger athletes, including Miller. Around Thanksgiving last year Ream passed away after a battle with cancer, leading to the scholarship named in his honor.

"He was a really good role model," Miller says. "I'm really touched by seeing how many people want to honor his memory."

Miller was one of a number of players from several graduating classes in "Team Ream" shirts. In the brisk, lightly snowy air on Friday, Ream could be seen catching passes and scoring touchdowns through his friends up and down the field.

Other scholarships honored athletes and supporters who have touched the State High football program, including athletes Kevin Dare, Matthew Weakland and Jeremy Wise, and Ganter’s mother Karen Bruno-Ganter.

"This really hits close to the heart for me," Little Lions Head Coach Matt Lintal says. "I've been very close to these families for years."

Brad Holzwarth, who graduated from State High in 2010, says the event shows a deep connection between the Turkey Bowl players, but that doesn't keep them from playing their hardest.

"There's a lot of trash talk between teams," Holzwarth laughs. "There's great competition and rivalry."

For current senior and Little Lions defensive tackle Barrett McMurtry, the Turkey Bowl reveals "an amazing sense of brotherhood" that spans generations and distance. Though he can't play in the Turkey Bowl until next year, he looks forward to being able to join his brothers on the field.

"It's awesome to see how much people care about State College football, that they care about us and what we're doing," McMurtry says."We're all one big team, no matter when we graduated."

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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