There’s no turkey in the City by the Bay this year.
That’s not true, of course. Families across San Francisco will still carve into holiday turkeys on Thursday as usual. It will just be different because this time they won’t know who the high school football champion of the San Francisco City Section is when they sit down to eat. It will be the first time that has happened since just weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
“We lost a week because of the fires in Northern California early in the season,” San Francisco City Section Assistant Commissioner of Athletic Activities John Zlatunich told USA TODAY High School Sports. “Because those games got pushed back, we have the first playoff round on Friday night and then the championship game next Friday (December 1).”
The fires that ravaged Northern California led to cancelations at high schools across the region, far beyond San Francisco. Dangerous air quality made it impossible for student athletes to safely exert themselves, setting the stage for an extra week of early season indoor practice and training.
While that may have been beneficial for team building and the development of general skills, it did a number on football schedules across the area. The entire City Section pushed back its schedules by a week, which created a unique dilemma: Either eliminate the final week of action and move forward with the schedule as planned in the preseason, or move back the playoffs a week. That would mean missing out on a Thanksgiving Day title game for the first time in more than five decades.
Principals of section schools and their respective coaches decided to go with the former, setting in motion a championship game in December instead of on America’s most football-focused holiday. That ends one of the nation’s longer continually running Thanksgiving Day football games, providing a very rare blip on a record of games that dates back to the 1920s.
Could the City Section have played both first round playoff games on Thanksgiving instead of Friday, just to keep some of the Turkey Bowl heritage alive? According to Zlatunich that was never a consideration.
“It is a holiday, and the decision was to let everyone enjoy the holiday with their families,” he said.
Barring another near catastrophic weather incident or other interruption of the 2019 schedule the Turkey Bowl should be back in Kezar Stadium on Thursday, November 22, 2018. Perhaps that will provide some solace for area high school football fans missing out on the West Coast’s most prestigious Thanksgiving Day football game.