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THE GAME OF A LIFETIME
Mark Bowden
December 09, 2002
In the last installment of a series, SI visits two suburbs of St. Louis where the Thanksgiving Day football game is not just an old-fashioned rivalry—it's something to savor forever
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December 09, 2002

The Game Of A Lifetime

In the last installment of a series, SI visits two suburbs of St. Louis where the Thanksgiving Day football game is not just an old-fashioned rivalry—it's something to savor forever

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Then, in the third quarter, Kirkwood kicker Andy Krapfl's little brother Matt, the young Pioneers' quarterback, launched a perfect 60-yard touchdown strike. Andy ran out on the field to congratulate Matt, but the kid was already buried under his own happy teammates.

Webster came alive in the fourth quarter, seemingly on the determination of DJ Jackson alone—"I set goals every day, and I try to teach them," the tiny sophomore had said. "My goals are: Every game I give 110 percent, show leadership, play my very best." DJ kicked, ran the ball and played strong safety for Webster. He was all over the field. In the final minutes of the game he broke loose twice for touchdowns.

On defense DJ saved a touchdown by executing a perfect open-field tackle on a Kirkwood back about twice his size who had broken free with a clear shot at the end zone. DJ hit him ankle-high near the Kirkwood sideline and took his feet right out from under him. Martin Drummond ran out to help DJ to his feet. "DJ, he's my cousin," Martin said happily.

Kirkwood scored again midway through the fourth quarter, and Holley leapt with both hands in the air. "The Bell is ours!" he said. The young Pioneers would win 28-14.

As the clock wound down, Coach Wade lined up Kirkwood's players on the sideline. "Nobody on this team goes for the Bell until you have shaken hands with the Webster players," he said.

John Lothman squeezed into the line. He had made several tackles in the game. His white uniform was dirty, and he was wearing a big smile. It looked like his 6'5" frame had grown two more inches. "It was great!" he said.

When the final whistle blew, a mob of deliriously happy Kirkwood varsity players led a mad dash across the field for the Bell. Wade's underclassmen dutifully trotted across the field to shake hands with the defeated young Statesmen as the Bell was hoisted aloft and carried by the crowd out to the parking lot, loaded in the back of a flatbed truck and, followed by a caravan of honking cars, taken for an in-your-face tour of downtown Webster Groves.

"Hold your heads up," Coach Kirksey shouted at his team, which huddled on one knee in a disciplined semicircle around him as the jubilant horns faded in the distance. "You have nothing to be ashamed of. You all are just starting to learn how to play football, and today was a good lesson. Now let's say a prayer."

Darrell Jackson stood silently to one side. "All I can say is, we better win state," he said. "Otherwise we've got nothing." (The Statesmen would win 23-22 over Raymore-Peculiar High, and Darrell would be the star of the game.)

The last player off the field was DJ Jackson, who was pleased with his effort despite his team's loss. His father, Donnie, a former Kirkwood star, had in the past watched his son's games standing in the end zone, between the Kirkwood and Webster sides. "He came over to the Webster side today," said DJ, grinning.

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