A sharp voice resounded over the din as Loyola drove toward the end zone yesterday, just before halftime of the high school's 83rd annual football battle with Calvert Hall at Ravens Stadium.
"Let's go, let's go - all the way, all the way, all the way," it cried. "Roll, roll, roll."
The voice belonged to Jerry Geckle, 73, who has been shouting cheers at Calvert Hall-Loyola games since he was an adolescent in the 1940s, tagging along with his brother, the team's water boy.
The 1948 Loyola graduate has seen about three-fourths of the games in one of the Baltimore area's oldest high school football rivalries. He missed going once because he was serving in the Marines and once because he was in the hospital. He considers the contest as much a part of Thanksgiving tradition as turkey.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful tradition for Baltimore," he said. "It's the equal, on a local basis, of the Army-Navy game. If you win the Turkey Bowl game, you've won the whole season."
Thousands of students, alumni and local football fans feel the same way. For years, they packed Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving morning, and now, they head downtown to the Ravens' home. About 14,000 showed up yesterday, beginning about 8 a.m., when the temperature hovered in the mid-20s.
Since Polytechnic Institute and City College stopped playing their traditional Thanksgiving game a few years ago, the showdown between the two Roman Catholic schools in Towson has stood as the lone local football rivalry contested on the holiday. Calvert Hall won yesterday's game, 21-10.
Geckle's large family - he used 20 tickets - builds its entire day around the game. One grandson caught a red-eye flight from Los Angeles on Wednesday to make it in time.
Geckle puts his 25-pound turkey in the oven before the family leaves its northern Baltimore home. He sets the oven timer so the bird begins cooking about halftime of the football game. By the time the family gets home, the turkey is almost done.
Such planning is typical of Turkey Bowl fans.
Angel Tacchetti, who sported a bright red and gold Calvert Hall hat, also put her turkey in the oven before she left for the game, where she would watch her son Jordan play in the band.
"You have no idea how good the house will smell when we get back," she said.
Tacchetti has only been going to the Turkey Bowl for the three years since her son started high school. But she said yesterday she probably will keep going after he graduates.
"I was not aware of this tradition before my son started school, but I love it," she said. "It's a fun way to start off our Thanksgiving."
Pat Curran is dean of students at Calvert Hall, and he clearly remembers the 1966 game, which he played in as a linebacker. Calvert Hall won that one, 22-0, but Curran said the biggest thrill for him was playing at Memorial Stadium, where Johnny Unitas and the Colts had made their magic.
Curran said the game is particularly special because boys from the two schools tend to grow up together, attending the same churches and elementary schools and playing in the same youth leagues. A win in the big game can mean bragging rights for life.
"At least when I played, we all knew the guys on the other side, and that made it a big deal," Curran said. "All the alums, when they ask about the season, ask about this game first. You feel bad for whomever loses, because it ruins Thanksgiving. Better that they lose than us, though."
Calvert Hall fans had more to cheer about yesterday, but Loyola supporters remained boisterous until the end.
Geckle acknowledged at halftime that his boys would have trouble winning, but he searched for his cowbell, which he promised to ring throughout the second half.
He exchanged friendly verbal jabs with his friend John Kogler, who graduated in 1947 and also has been going to the games since. Kogler, whose only absence occurred in 1953 because his daughter was to be born the next day, joked that he can follow the loudest voice in the stands if he wants to find Geckle.
"It's just good to see the boys out there trying to win," he said. "This is our alma mater and they taught us a lot of good things when we were there, so it's fun to come out. My family always knows where I'll be on Thanksgiving morning."
When asked about his most memorable game, Kogler said they've all been good. But Geckle had a clear answer.
He recalled the last game he went to with his brother Andy.
"I remember he told me, `I don't think I'm going to make it to another Loyola game,'" Geckle said. "And he passed before the next year. That was a special one."