Wapato and Toppenish face off in the Alumni Thanksgiving Turkey - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Wapato and Toppenish face off in the Alumni Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl

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WAPATO, WA - Turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie are all staples on Thanksgiving tables. But so is football, and there is one game that has a huge impact on two communities.

Hours before the Giants took on the Redskins, there was a much smaller football game in Wapato. What's at stake? Bragging rights over Highway 97.

Wapato and Toppenish are two small Yakima Valley towns unfortunately known for guns, gangs, and violence. But football brings them together.

"What we're trying to do is get all the guys from the lower valley down, Toppenish and Wapato, and create a positive impact," said Jamie Delatorre, a 2012 Wapato graduate.

That's how the Toppenish vs. Wapato Alumni Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl was born, a tradition going back at least 15 years, keeping the rivalry alive long after graduation.

"These guys wait all year to hit each other, and to be honest, this is where you let loose," said Ricky "Frezko" Rodriguez, a 2006 Toppenish graduate. "We regulate it so once you're down, you're down. We're not hurting each other, falling on each other. We watch each other's back."

The game is full contact. Alumni and even some current students from both high schools play, and they do it in minimal pads.

"Kids in high school come out and play," said Delatorre. "40-year-olds come and play. It gives us that high school football adrenaline rush. It makes us feel young again."

After nearly two hours, Toppenish beat Wapato 7-0. But the final score isn't what matters, because both of these towns come out winners every Thanksgiving.

"We're here to have a great time," Rodriguez said. "We're here to bring communities together and just have fun."

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