In Washington, D.C., the Turkey Bowl is the biggest high school football game of the year, not just for the players but also for thousands of fans and proud parents like Larry Bulluck, who went Thursday to support his son, who plays for Dunbar.
“One of my dreams came true," Bulluck said. "I always wanted to play in the Turkey Bowl.”
But this year’s matchup of Dunbar against H.D. Woodson was not determined on the field. Instead a controversial decision by D.C. Public Schools put Dunbar in the final aftere the team lost the semifinal.
“Maybe it’s not fair, but I’m happy my son is here,” said Linda Green, a Dunbar parent.
The controversy started almost two weeks ago when the Blue Knights of Ballou beat Dunbar 35-31 to make it to the championship game. But a DCPS investigation determined one of the Ballou players had a grade improperly changed so he could become academically eligible for the game. Ballou was then forced to forfeit their win.
“The kid knew he didn’t have grades, he shouldn’t suit up,” said Bulluck.
“Ballou won on the field so it really is a shame that they are in the circumstances that they are in,” said D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent Gray. “On the other hand, you got to make sure that the rules are adhered to as well, because if they aren’t, then you have chaos.”
The official Turkey Bowl program was already printed up with a picture of Ballou right next to Woodson. But officials made the correction with a new insert, a black and white photo of Dunbar.
Ballou players are heartbroken, according to head coach Moses Ware.
“I know there was nothing wrong that we did as a football family, I know it wasn’t,” Ware said.
So was it the school’s mistake?
“I’m not going to speculate,” said Ware. “I’m not getting into that.”
In the end Woodson, came out on top, beating Dunbar 44-12. Some may wonder whether that really means it's the real champion.
“I think the city was robbed of the best game,” Ware said.