Since 1976, Turkey Bowl has been a competition of skill between the top two men’s collegians at Pensacola Christian College. With this year’s welcome addition of the first-ever women’s Turkey Bowl championship game and the senior class’s Harvest Fest, the day had more to offer ahead of the final days of in-person classes.
During the women’s afternoon championship game, friends and families of the teams cheered on the Delta Gamma Bears and the Zeta Delta Dolphins at Eagle Field. Fans of each collegian came equipped, wearing team colors and waving homemade signs emblazoned with their friends’ names. One fan even brought a giant inflatable version of the Dolphins’ beloved mascot.
After the competing women’s teams were announced, Serge Privert (Jr., FL) chose on a whim to attend the game to see the Bears play. “I like the Bears. I think they’re just a strong team,” he said. “I have a lot of memories when it comes to Turkey Bowl, so I thought [having the first women’s Turkey Bowl championship] was a great idea. Obviously, people are having a good time and the girls get to participate.”
Ahead of the game, Bears athletic director Clarissa De Paula Rosa (So., CA) was thrilled her 7–0 team qualified for the special championship game. “Our teams have practiced hard and have done extremely well in both soccer and volleyball,” sending both teams to the championships, she said. “It’s a great honor to be one of the first girls’ teams to go to Turkey Bowl. It’s very cool that the Bears are making PCC history!”
By halftime, the Dolphins held the lead 2–1. It wasn’t long before the Bears shot ahead, winning the game 6–2. “Winning was an awesome feeling,” said Lindsey LeFort (So., VA), a left middle for the Bears. “Our team has definitely put in the work, and it was very rewarding winning the Turkey Bowl, especially winning the Turkey Bowl with an undefeated season.”
Throughout the day, students enjoyed a variety of additional activities sponsored by the senior class—Harvest Fest! Booths featuring seasonal games and snacks were set up around campus to raise funds for Harold and Lillian Gilmer, missionaries based in São Paulo, Brazil. Many students enjoyed hayrides, pumpkin painting, a dunking booth, a giant inflatable soccer game, and treats such as hot cocoa and apple cider.
Alayna Moore (So., CA) and Younghyun Lim (So., South Korea) were both excited to see what Harvest Fest was all about. “I didn’t know it was going to be quite like this, but I’m really excited now because my church did something similar back home,” said Alayna. “It’s bringing back old memories. I like this kind of thing.”
After walking around and seeing the giant Jenga, Ring Toss, Plinko, Connect Four, bull riding, and pumpkin bowling, both Younghyun and Alayna were eager to try out all the games. “I’ve never been to something like this before, and it’s fun!” said Younghyun. “Honestly, I want to try everything.”
Over 50 teams of students participated in the scavenger hunt game, Harvest Hunt, working out clues to complete challenges and photograph specific objects and places around campus. The top three teams who finished the scavenger hunt in the least amount of time received a $15 Chick-fil-A gift card, a $25 Amazon card, and JBL wireless earbuds worth $100.
As senior class president and a player on one of the battling soccer teams, Jeff Ludka (Sr., CT) has been excited for both Harvest Fest and the collegian soccer championships. “[Turkey Bowl] is our last big event before most of us go home for the semester, so why not have some fun!” he said. “The Harvest Fest is going to be a blast, but there’s also several things in it that support a good cause! I hope that many will consider donating to help the Gilmers!”
That evening, the Chi Sigma Cobras and the Omega Kappa Vikings took their turn to battle for the men’s soccer championship. Brady Harman (Jr., IN), Vikings athletic director, was overjoyed when the soccer team qualified to play in the Turkey Bowl. “Our soccer team has gotten to the Turkey Bowl for the third consecutive year! After nail-biter games versus the [Beta Kappa] Hornets and [Alpha Chi] Hawks, I knew it would be a hard grind to the final, but an even greater reward if we made it,” he said. “Advancing to Turkey Bowl once as a student is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—but to get there three times in a row? Now that’s something special that my collegian and I will never forget!”
For Cobras athletic director Chandler Fitzgerald (Jr., MI), this was his first semester coaching his collegian soccer team. Getting his team to the Turkey Bowl allowed him to accomplish one of the team’s goals, the next one winning the championship. After an intense game that included several saves from Cobras goalkeeper Jeff Ludka, their team claimed the victory over the Vikings with a score of 2–1. “It was incredible,” said Chandler. “We were excited and happy with how we were playing and knew we were controlling the game. It was an amazing reward for the hard work we put in during the season.”
“My father and older brother were both Cobras and they both as well made it into the Turkey Bowl, so growing up, it was one of the things I have wanted to be able to be a part of most,” shared Luc Mach (Fr., OH), who played center middle. “When the whistle blew for the end of the game, I was at a loss for words. My parents drove down from Cleveland, Ohio, and I had so many more family members watching the livestream! It certainly made the experience so much more thrilling.”
Turkey Bowl and Harvest Fest uniquely acted as a “last hurrah” for the student body to enjoy with friends. After a shortened week of classes, many students went home for the Thanksgiving holiday, finishing the online-only portion of the semester from home. “I haven’t spent the last two Thanksgivings with my family, and my siblings have sports at school,” said Crystal Rangel (Jr., NC) while at the women’s Turkey Bowl game. “They’re in high school, and I’m excited to go support them on both. It’s gonna be the first time I’m there in a long time and it’s really exciting.”