TOWSON, Md. - Loyola senior Matt Gillespie's sharpest memory following last year's Turkey Bowl against archrival Calvert Hall wasn't getting the chance to play at M&T Bank Stadium or seeing about 10,000 fans cheering on high school football players.
What Gillespie remembers most is crying for 15 minutes in the locker room after Calvert Hall scored on an 83-yard touchdown in the final minute to pull out a 21-14 victory. The loss was the Dons' fourth straight in the series, their biggest drought since losing seven in a row between 1978 and 1984.
Loyola hopes to reverse that trend when facing Calvert Hall for the 94 th time at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ABC2 and can be viewed online at abc2news.com/live .
"This game is a big deal and the emotions are so strong on both sides," said Gillespie, who plays offensive and defensive line. "The game was so close and to have that taken away was tough."
Despite the final score, Loyola left the field that day knowing there were chances to win, having outgained Calvert Hall 295 to 260 yards.
The difference was turnovers. The Dons coughed up the ball four times, including a lost fumble and two interceptions in the second half. The last of those turnovers came in the final minute as Loyola tried to tie the game after Calvert Hall's dramatic score.
The pain from that loss has carried over to Loyola's returning players this year, especially for the seniors who don't want to graduate having never won a Turkey Bowl.
"We hurt ourselves last year, but also know we can play with them," said senior wide receiver/defensive back Alex Isaac. "Winning this game is huge for both teams. It can make you forget about any other loss on your schedule."
The Loyola-Calvert Hall rivalry is among the most storied rivalries in Maryland sports. Much like Army-Navy or the Ravens-Steelers, record can often be ignored when it comes to the Turkey Bowl.
A win on Thanksgiving can also help put a positive spin on a tough season; something both Loyola (2-8) and Calvert Hall (3-8) are dealing with in 2013. That is the mindset Loyola coach Brant Hall has instilled in his players.
Hall, in his second year as head coach and 11 th year on staff, is a 1998 Loyola graduate. Hall never lost to Calvert Hall as a player and was at Loyola during a stretch in which the Dons won a series-record 11 straight ending in 1999. Loyola leads the all-time series 48-37-8.
"A win on Thanksgiving can lose a season or define a season when you're at Loyola or Calvert Hall," Hall said. "You want to end your season on a positive note and that is what our guys are fighting for right now. They are coming in and practicing hard with winning that game as a top goal."
Loyola senior Jack Kenny agrees. The offensive/defensive lineman wants nothing more than to beat Calvert Hall and end his high school playing career on a high note.
"You want to feel like you contributed to the rivalry, and were not just a passer-by player with nothing to show for your work at the end of the day," Kenny said.