DC's annual Turkey Bowl kicked off with a controversy hanging over the game. Dunbar High School took on Anacostia, which earned a spot in the city championship after Wilson High School was disqualified. Even though Anacostia wasn't supposed to even be in, the team refused to roll over.
On the sidelines, fans cheered with every big play and let out loud sighs of disappointment when things didn't go their way. "I hope we take it home. Take it home. We need to win the championship," said Sharn Boone, an Anacostia alumni. How her team got here didn't make a difference. "It doesn't matter, you should always stay legal," she said alluding to Wilson's absence from the game.
Anacostia got into the 43rd annual Turkey Bowl when an investigation found Wilson had an ineligible player who lived outside the city. It was discovered after the player's arrest in a robbery. It's the second time in three years a team has been pulled from the city championship days before the game. "I feel sorry for the kids who didn't get a chance to be here who did earn it," said Jerome Roberts, who attended the game.
Rules are rules though and DC's mayor Vincent Gray defended the decision by the school to remove Wilson. "I think it's imperative that the rules be enforced. It's not the first time it's happened this year. We had a situation at a another school where there was a kids with a residency problem and the coach was dismissed," the mayor said.
The controversy wasn't lost on Dunbar fans, who would have faced Wilson, a team that hasn't played in this game in 21-years. "I'm sorry that Wilson couldn't be in it. It might have been an interesting game," said Anthony Hellams, a Dunbar Alumni.
Anacostia kept the game a whole lot closer than expected. For many fans, whether it was Anacostia on the field or Wilson didn't matter. The turkey bowl is a DC tradition that transcends the controversy. "I remember us upsetting Roosevelt. They were the champs for three years in a row and everybody doubted us," said Leonard Williams, who played in the championship game 35 years ago, when it was at RFK Stadium.
Every year the teams on the field may change but people keep coming back. "I come out every year, i've been coming out every year since i started going to Dunbar," said Jennifer Drew, who graduated in 2003.
Dunbar won the game 12-8, but Anacostia had a chance to tie and take the lead with minutes to go in the game only to be stopped 1 1/2 yards short of the goal line. The two teams settled the game on the field, if not the controversy.
Three years ago, Ballou High School was disqualified from the Turkey Bowl over a player grade scandal. Instead Dunbar played in the game.