Bragging rights were on the line once again when the veterans and the youngsters suited up for the Tustin Police Department’s annual Turkey Bowl.
Played on the day before Thanksgiving at Hillview School in Tustin, the flag football game pitted officers age 34 and older against officers age 33 and younger.
A touchdown pass from Officer Matt Martinez to Sergeant Jeff Taylor in the game’s final seconds gave the veterans the victory for the sixth consecutive year.
“It’s a mental game,” said Training Officer Michelle Jankowski, a member of the veterans’ team. “It’s strategy and experience. They lack it and we don’t and we know how to play.”
The Turkey Bowl began 10 years ago as a fundraising effort for meals for Tustin area families around Thanksgiving. Initially, the competition involved multiple law enforcement agencies but has since been revamped as an in-house contest for the Tustin Police Department.
“There is no rank,” said Detective Javon Smith, a member of the veterans’ team. “There are no stars, no bars, no chevrons. Everyone is equal. We come out here, talk a little trash, and we just have fun.”
After the game, players and their families gather for a barbecue.
“Things like this are what build camaraderie and pride,” said Detective Chris Natividad, who played on the youngsters’ side. “I think it’s important for any agency or any company.”
At 23, Irineo Flores was the youngest player on the field and playing in his first ever Turkey Bowl. Flores has been with Tustin Police Department for seven months after lateralling from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“They talked a lot of smack but they backed it up,” Flores said of the veterans.
When asked how it felt being the oldest player in the game, Sgt. Matt Nunley, 46, gave a one-word answer: “Sore.”
“But it’s fun,” Nunley added. “It’s fun to get out here and hang out with the guys. It’s a good time.”
Department personnel started the day at the Tustin Family & Youth Center participating in another annual tradition: Handing Thanksgiving meals to local families.