When you think of Thanksgiving traditions, Turkey is one, football is another. But a four-decade local football tradition came to an end this year. This is the first year since 1967, Panama City Beach has not hosted the Snapper Bowl.
For more than 40 years, youth football teams from all over the country travel to Bay County to play in the longest-running youth football tournament in the country. The Snapper Bowl used to fill the stands at Pete Edwards Field, with friends and family cheering on thirty or more football teams any given year. One team came from as far away as Ohio last year.
But this year, the P.A is silent, score board is blank, and the benches are bare. Harold Creel, the tournament's organizer since 1999, died in July.
"It meant a lot to him. In some ways it was like a homecoming, it was a get together, but always in good sportsmanship and having a good time. That's all it ever was and all he wanted them to do," Creel's close friend John Mullis said.
Creel loved the game and was a good coach, but his coaching went far beyond the game of football.
"He taught them the ways of life more than anything. He always would say, you know, sports is like life. It knocks you down, but you got to get up and keep going. You can't stay down," Mullis said.
Important lessons from a great coach, but he was an even better friend.
"He's the buddy you want when you go into battle. He's the one you want looking behind your back taking care of you. He was a devoted friend, a very devoted friend, and he was always willing to help any way he could...He was always looking out for you like a big brother," Mullis said.
A big brother who's passed on, along with a 42-year tradition..