NEW PALESTINE — The spread of food was fit for a king — or at least a state championship football team.
With freshly baked turkey, ham and potatoes piled high, the New Palestine High School football team feasted on a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner Wednesday night following a workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was a last supper of sorts — at least, the last one together — for a different kind of family, the kind gearing up for a big game beneath the stadium lights.
The Dragons booster club, the Grid Iron Alliance, put together the dinner for players, coaches and their families so they could take a few hours to relax and enjoy a meal together before the state championship game.
“Our coaches don’t ask us for a lot, so when they make mention of doing something like this for the team, we step up and do it,” football mom Cindy Marshall said.
Head coach Kyle Ralph said being able to play football this late in the season is special. The Dragons are among 12 teams vying for a state title this weekend. He said he wanted his players to have a special Thanksgiving meal together to commemorate the moment.
“This type of meal is only something you can do on a week like this if you’re still playing,” Ralph said. “We talk a ton about family here, and Thanksgiving is a big holiday, and it’s traditional for families to be together as one.”
Dennis Judy, booster club president, said the community really stepped up to make the meal special. It took everyone pitching in, but it wasn’t too tall an order for the Dragon faithful.
“It only took about an hour for us to get all the food we needed,” Judy said.
It included as many as seven turkeys, two hams, several dishes of mashed potatoes and plenty more.
“It is something special to have all the families come in and be able to enjoy it with the boys,” football mom Laura Walden said. “After practice on Thursday, they won’t be together until the big game.”
The team traveled in Lucas Oil Stadium for one of their final workouts late Wednesday. When they arrived back at the high school, the mammoth meal was waiting.
“I’d want to do something like this every year if I could,” linebacker Joe Izbicki said. “Other than my immediate family at home, these are the closest friends I’ve got.”
The boys were invited to stuff themselves on Wednesday, though their coaches advised against too much feasting on Thanksgiving, lest they become sluggish on the field the following evening.
Of course, that was probably just wishful thinking.
“They’ll eat like pigs, I’m sure,” Ralph said with a laugh. “There is no way some of our lineman will not eat a lot of food — hopefully, they’ll digest well before the game, and we’ll have the same outcome as last year.”
That’s when the Dragons won the school’s first football state title at the class 4A level. This year, the team has moved up a class.
Team members say regardless of the outcome against Fort Wayne Snyder in the class 5A title game, they’ll find reasons this weekend to be thankful — for friends, for family, for each other.
What does it take to feed a high school football team a Thanksgiving dinner?
4 Pots of chicken noodles
5 Pots of mashed potatoes
4 Pots of greenbeans
4 Dishes of macaroni and cheese
4 Dishes of sweet potato
4 Dishes of stuffing
1 Corn casserole