Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey Bowl in Tampa, 11/23/67

Yankees-Red Sox. Michigan-Ohio State. Coke-Pepsi. Aniston-Jolie.

Heated rivals all, but frankly those feuds are child's play compared to the bitter rivalry that once took place annually on Thanksgiving Day in Tampa: Hillsborough vs. Plant.

Forty years ago, the Hillsborough Terriers and Plant Panthers had their 40th meeting on the gridiron. The clash was extra special because it was held for the first time at the newly opened Tampa Stadium. A then-record 16,500 fans were there, making it the most-attended high school football game in Tampa's history.

With a 7-3 record, Henry B. Plant High School entered the contest reeling from a defeat the previous week to King, a 6-0 setback that cost the Panthers a share of the city and Western Conference championships. In addition, the Panthers lost offensive standout Tommy Trent to a broken collarbone suffered during practice. Trent had scored eight touchdowns for the Panthers during the season, and his contributions would be sorely missed against Hillsborough High School.

Meanwhile, the Terriers entered the game with a two-game losing streak and their own set of problems. The day before the game, Hillsborough Coach Bernie Wilson wrestled with allowing two Terriers to play. Split end Ronnie Rodgers -- a potential All-America candidate -- and defensive standout Gene Brito had been suspended from the team for skipping class without permission. A unanimous team vote allowed them to play in the game, and the Terriers agreed to obey certain punishment standards in the future.

The game played out as defensive struggle. Plant's stingy defense forced Hillsborough quarterback Cecil Kent into three first-half interceptions. Chris Anderson provided Plant's only score of the game on a four-yard touchdown run with 2:46 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.

Hillsborough's defense, which allowed 101 yards on the ground in the first half, rose to the challenge in the second half, allowing only five rushing yards. Trailing by seven near the end of the third quarter, the Terriers put together a 56-yard drive on the back of senior running back Roger McKinney, who carried five times for 49 yards during that series. Cecil Kent capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run and the extra point tied the score, 7-7.

Late in the fourth quarter, Hillsborough’s Don Lynn blocked a punt by Plant’s Gary Segar, putting the Terriers at the Panthers’ 44 yard line. Hillsborough advanced to the 15 before calling on its star running back one more time.

With 5:48 remaining, McKinney's 25-yard field goal -- the first of his career -- sailed over the crossbar with little room to spare, giving Hillsborough a 10-7 lead. His superlative performance occurred despite twice leaving the field with leg cramps. After the game, McKinney gave credit to the wind for assisting on his game-winning kick.

"The wind was blowing from the right to the left so I kicked it to the right, and the wind did the rest," he said.

In his final high school game, McKinney accounted for 151 total yards and the game-deciding points. The senior finished his Hillsborough career by running 20 times for 151 yards on the day. The Western Conference and city scoring champion in 1967, McKinney no doubt cherished his records that year, but as the clock showed goose eggs that afternoon, he likely took great pride in one other achievement. In three years of high school football with the Hillsborough Terriers, he never knew the sting of defeat against the Plant Panthers

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