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Opposing players prepare for action at the 2019 Commode Bowl game.

If the past 72 years have been any indication, the players will be flush with excitement for a longtime and light-hearted — but always-hard-fought — Dunbar Thanksgiving sports tradition: the Commode Bowl.

This year’s football rivalry match-up of Dunbar residents (and perhaps some out-of-towners to fill the rosters) is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 25, following the traditional (and yet wildly non-traditional) Commode Bowl Parade, which will line up at 11 a.m. at the Dunbar Plaza parking lot outside Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. At noon, the parade will proceed along 10th Avenue to, ultimately, the Dunbar Middle School football field for the 1 p.m. kickoff.

Admission to view the game is a requested five cans of food to be donated to the Dunbar Food Pantry, another Commode Bowl tradition to assist others during the holidays.

The Commode Bowl’s gridiron battles have been waged over seven decades (tomorrow’s event will be the 73rd) as a Thanksgiving tournament for bragging rights (and the coveted Commode Bowl Trophy) between Dunbar’s River Rats and Hillside Rams, players representing their sections of Dunbar residence or affiliation; the railroad tracks are the generally agreed-upon boundary to determine if one is a River Rat (from the river side of Dunbar) or a Ram (hailing from the hill side of the city).

The yearly contest was first played on Thanksgiving Day in 1948, when Dunbar High School football team members decided to have a holiday, “in-house” scrimmage between DHS’ upperclassmen (Toilet Water Tech) versus their underclassmen counterparts (the PU Team).

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Dave Wallace, who helps organize the game, has played since 1983 (“I’ve played in more than half of the games,” he noted) as a Hillside Ram and said the rivalry looks to be back in regular form this year after making some adjustments last year due to the pandemic.

“We had to play on a shorter field,” Wallace said, “but we had a great turnout of fans who supported what we did, so we loved it. It was the first time the game was ever played on the hillside, and the Hillside Rams came out victorious. We had a great bunch of people, and we put on a pretty good and exciting game last year; it came down to a final score of 23-21.

“Everything’s back to normal this year. We’re shooting to have our game as usual, and we’re asking everybody participate in the parade. We’re going to give a cash prize for the best float in the parade this year,” he said.

“We have two more years until our 75th game, so we’re trying to build it back up like it used to be. It’s a great thing, and something we want to keep pushing. We’ve got a lot of people who want to keep the game alive. We’re trying to give prizes to fans in the stands, too, things like coupons for oil changes or meals at restaurants,” Wallace said.

For more information and updates about this year’s Commode Bowl, visit the Commode Bowl’s page on Facebook.

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