On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Prairie Fire met the Fighting Scots on the football field in their 130th official meeting of the Turkey Bowl. The Fighting Scots won with a score of 40-7. They will retain possession of the Bronze Turkey, at least until next year.
The campus-famous rivalry began in 1891, when Knox won by a recorded score of 22-4. As is tradition, the winner gets the Bronze Turkey, a statuette which has been passed back and forth between Knox and Monmouth since 1928.
In recent years, Knox has had a rather long run of futility on the football field against their longtime rival, though they led the all-time series until fairly recently, only ceding the lead in 1992. The last victory for the Prairie Fire came in 1998. Despite the difference in their records, many of the players on the team expressed confidence going into the game this Saturday.
Senior Logan Hollis said that “records always go out the window on a big rivalry game like this.”
Sophomore Grant Graham put it more succinctly.
“You don’t go into any game believing you are going to lose,” Graham said. “Even if history isn’t in your favor you still have to believe in yourself and your teammates [that] you are going to come out on top.”
With the loss to Monmouth, the Knox Prairie Fire finish the season 2-7, although their in-conference record is a respectable 2-3 for a .400 winning percentage. During the season, the Prairie Fire scored 109 points and allowed 244 across their nine games.
Their two wins this season came back-to-back, both against Midwestern Conference rivals. Grinnell and Illinois College felt the wrath of a team that had, until that point, struggled to win games. They thrashed their in-conference rivals with a combined score of 48-13. After that, they lost two games, including the one to Monmouth, to close out the season.
Although they will not be playing for the conference championship, this year’s team found success on the field in other ways, and even avenged some long-standing droughts. Their victory over Illinois College on Oct. 20 was the first time that the Prairie Fire had beat their opponent in a Homecoming game in over ten years, and they did it in a dominant fashion.
The Prairie Fire ended up winning the game against the Foresters 20-6. As it was Homecoming, the game had extra importance to those playing in it and for those watching Ñ including those who had returned from years past to watch Ñ creating a raucous crowd.
Hollis called it “a great win for the program,” adding that, “it was also great to get a win on Homecoming in front of the biggest crowd of the year. It is one of my most memorable wins of my career and a huge win for Knox football; it was a really special game.”
Senior Dom Parello declared that the memories of the game will stay with him for life.
“The victory felt incredible,” Parello said. “The crowd was energetic and created an atmosphere that was unlike any I’ve experienced. The whole team believed in what we could do, and it showed. The memory for us seniors will be lifelong.”
Others, like juniors Kobe Shutter and Brendan Powers, talked up the mental sharpness and grit of the team.
“We came together as a team for a purpose and that was to win the football game. We came out with energy and dominated the entire game. It was a great team win,” said Powers.
“We hadn’t won a Homecoming game in a long time, and it was such a great feeling being able to finally win that game, especially against Illinois College,” Shutter said. “Our offense was hot, our defense was sharp, and the energy from the sidelines and fans was incredible. It was a great game and a great experience.” Shutter agreed.
Though this year’s season didn’t turn out the way that most wanted it to, most of the team members have hope for the future.
“I’m excited for next year because we have a lot of young guys who really contribute and can help us a lot next year,” Powers said.
“For next year, we are looking forward to having another big first-year class coming in and contributing right away like this year. The group this year brings energy every day and pushes everyone to be better. If we can get better every day, the sky is the limit for us,” Shutter added.
The football team will graduate 15 seniors.