David Gibson - Flint Central Indian Football Player; sealed the last win and game ever played at Atwood Stadium in a Turkey Day Game
Joe Eufinger - Varsity Head Coach of Flint Central Indians in the last Turkey Day game at Atwood Stadium, 1976
November 24, 2021
The 49th annual Thanksgiving Day Game between Flint Central and Flint Northern was the last in that epic and historic series. It wasn’t the last in the rivalry thought. That would go on until 2008, with Central closing for good in 2009, and Northern soon to follow. Between 1977 and 2008 the rivalry would continue to see great teams and players compete. Northern had some terrific teams in the 80’s as did Central. Both teams made state playoff runs with the future MSU star Mateen Cleaves and NFL star Robaire Smith Vikings being their best. Central did the same featuring a terrific future U of M, Olympic and Major League star Jim Abbott led playoff run in 84, and again in 93 behind future U of M and NFL star Andre Weathers.
The advent of the Michigan state playoffs would spell the death knell for one of American’s greatest high school football traditions after the 76 game. But even before that the game had lost some of it’s luster, with dwindling attendance and interest, especially compared to the extravaganza it had been, peaking out with nearly 21,000 fans in attendance in 1950.
Along the way the Thanksgiving Day game had attracted a whopping attendance of 653,042. It also featured some of the greatest high school talent in the country. Legend of the game included:
Russ Reynolds, Len Sweet, Leo Sugar (NFL), Harold Kaczynski, Paul Beaubien, Lynn Chandnois, Tony Branoff, Joe Ponsetto, George Guerre, Jesse Thomas (NFL), George Hoey (NFL), Hank Minarik (NFL), Eddie Krupa Iwo Jima hero, Notre Dame star and key member of “The Wonder Boys”, Tony Burton (NFL and the trainer in the Rocky Movies), Art Thrash, Art Johnson, Leroy Bolden (NFL), Ellis Duckett, Joe Shomsky, Fred Lakes, Reggie Barnett, Steve Bograkos, Bart Jenriches, Michael Ivory, George Washington, Bill Broadway, and on and on and on.
Flint Central and Flint Northern would win 60% of all Michigan mythical big school Class A state championships from 1923 when Central opened to 1960 when the talent pool started to be diluted at Central and Northern with the opening of Flint Southwestern. Another big class A school, Flint Northwestern opened in 1964 reducing the talent concentration further. Flint Powers Catholic opened and consolidated the parochial schools under one roof as well. The fact that all of those schools experienced tremendous success is a testament to the quality of talent in the city.
However, by 1976 that writing was on the wall that the venerable old Thanksgiving Game had to come to an end. Coaching that game, his first as a varsity head coach was Joe Eufinger, who also happened to be Fish’s coach at Flint Central. Eufinger was also a player at Central and competed in the Thanksgiving Day Game. Coaching that last game was bitter sweet. But he knew he had to win it. Win it he did, by the smallest of margins. A tipped pass by Indian David Gibson sealed a 7-6 Indian victory in the last of the Thanksgiving Day Games. That play also made Gibson the very last man to ever touch a live game ball in the history of the series that started nearly 100 years ago.
Both Eufinger and Gibson join Fish in The Aquarium to discuss the Turkey Day tilts, the last game, and the play that gave the win to Flint Central, and earned Gibson lifetime bragging rights as not only the savior of the game, but the last hand in the biggest high school Thanksgiving Day rivalry in American history!
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