While the Reitz Nation had hopes of the Panthers playing for a state championship during this holiday weekend, unfortunately, it was not to be. However, throughout the Panthers’ amazing history, they have played in several Thanksgiving Day games.
In the early days of Indiana high school football, teams usually ended their season with a big Turkey Day rivalry game. However, as teams anticipated the IHSAA’s implementation of a playoff system, more and more ended their season earlier in November. Reitz was no different and played her last Thanksgiving Day contest in 1959, finishing 14-8-3 in games played on the holiday.
Now, 55 years after the tradition ended, ReitzFootball.com presents the Top Five biggest Thanksgiving Day games in Reitz Football history:
No. 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Day Game in Reitz Football History
Reitz 39, Boonville 2 (Nov. 24, 1927)
In one of their earliest Thanksgiving Day games, the Panthers traveled to Warrick County and defeated Boonville, 39-2. Bill Droll (Reitz Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008) and Edward Engel (Class of 2014 nominee) led the Panthers (7-1) with two touchdowns each. The only score for Boonville (4-4) came when Droll tried to perform a return kick (legal in those days) but inadvertently stepped out of the end zone.
The win gave Reitz their first conference championship (the Panthers were in the Tiny Ten from 1923-30 before the SIAC started in 1935).
No. 4 Biggest Thanksgiving Day Game in Reitz Football History
Reitz 0, Central 0 (Nov. 21, 1940)
The Courier’s headline that recapped this battle of undefeateds explained it all:
“Reitz, Central battle to scoreless tie in rain and mud”
Neither team was able to gain any traction, and while the score finished 0-0, neither Reitz nor Central shared titles with the other. The SIAC crown, which used a points system, belonged to the Bears (6-0-3 overall, 4-0-2 SIAC, 1-0-2 city) because they had played more conference games. The Panthers went on to beat Memorial a week later, clinching the city and state championship with records of 8-0-1 overall, 3-0-1 in the SIAC and 2-0-1 in the city.
No. 3 Biggest Thanksgiving Day Game in Reitz Football History
Reitz 6, Bosse 0 (Nov. 26, 1931)
In front of 12,000 fans, one of the largest in Evansville at the time, the Panthers knocked off previously unbeaten Bosse, 6-0. The only score of the game came in the first quarter when Hall of Famer Charles Brunson lateral passed to Le Mon (first name unknown), who reversed field for a 15-yard touchdown run. The upset forced a tie for first place in the city standings, with both teams finishing the regular season at 2-1 in the city.
However, in the midst of the Great Depression, the IHSAA had permitted schools to schedule a postseason benefit game. After some controversy, local officials used the option to schedule a rematch in order to break the tie. The Bulldogs (9-1) won the special postseason city championship game, 13-0, on Dec. 5. Reitz finished 7-3.
No. 2 Biggest Thanksgiving Day Game in Reitz Football History
Reitz 27, Central 0 (Nov. 26, 1953)
It was either team’s prize to claim going into the contest, but the Panthers reigned supreme as they knocked off Central, 27-0, to claim the outright city title. Reitz was led by Fred Russel, who had seven carries for 119 yards and one touchdown and Don Siscel, who had six carries for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
The Panthers (10-0 overall, 5-0 SIAC, 4-0 city) also claimed the conference and state championships with the win. Central finished 5-3 overall, 4-2 in the SIAC and 3-1 in the city.
No. 1 Biggest Thanksgiving Day Game in Reitz Football History
Reitz 14, Memorial 0 (Nov. 25, 1948)
Just as in 1953, sole possession of the city title was on the line, but so was an outright SIAC Large Division crown. About 13,000 fans watched the Panthers give Memorial runner-up status, defeating the Tigers, 14-0.
Reitz was led by Tommy Wilson, who had 12 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown and Hall of Famer Pete Fisher, with 11 carries for 24 yards and one touchdown.
The Panthers (10-0 overall, 4-0 SIAC, 3-0 city) also won the state championship while Memorial finished 5-2-2 overall, 2-1-1 in the SIAC Large Division and 1-1-1 in the city.
Reitz 39, Memorial 0 (Nov. 22, 1956)
Reitz 33, Bosse 13 (Nov. 28, 1957)
While not in the Top 5, we felt it important to include these because both of these wins gave the Panthers an undefeated season and clinched them state championships.
Complete list of Reitz Football’s Thanksgiving Day games
- Nov. 27, 1919: Boonville 2nds W 26-0
- Nov. 24, 1921: Central L 0-104
- Nov. 27, 1924: Bosse L 13-22
- Nov. 26, 1925: Bosse L 0-21
- Nov. 25, 1926: Boonville T 7-7
- Nov. 24, 1927: Boonville W 39-2
- Nov. 29, 1928: Central L 0-6
- Nov. 28, 1929: Central L 6-12
- Nov. 27, 1930: Bosse W 21-7
- Nov. 26, 1931: Bosse W 6-0
- Nov. 29, 1934: Central W 14-13
- Nov. 28, 1935: Central T 0-0
- Nov. 26, 1936: Bosse L 7-26
- Nov. 25, 1937: Bosse L 6-7
- Nov. 21, 1940: Central T 0-0
- Nov. 20, 1941: Central W 6-0
- Nov. 25, 1943: Bosse W 26-0
- Nov. 22, 1945: Bosse W 37-0
- Nov. 25, 1948: Memorial W 14-0
- Nov. 22, 1951: Central L 6-20
- Nov. 26, 1953: Central W 27-0
- Nov. 25, 1954: Memorial W 47-0
- Nov. 22, 1956: Memorial W 39-0
- Nov. 28, 1957: Bosse W 33-13
- Nov. 26, 1959: Bosse W 32-6