When your father is also your football coach, it can be tempting for him to bring work home.
But coaches Robert Ferrante (Framingham), Dave Woods (Bishop Fenwick), and Brian Vaughan (Lynn Classical) all said they’ve made a concerted effort throughout the years to avoid inundating their sons with extra football talk outside of practices, even when it comes to Thanksgiving games.
On Thursday morning, Steven Woods will quarterback Fenwick against Malden Catholic and Brian James Vaughan will quarterback Lynn Classical in the 107th edition of its city rivalry with Lynn English. Senior wide receiver Joe Ferrante will hope to lead Framingham to an upset of Natick.
Dave Woods joined the Fenwick staff in 1996, succeeded Al Costabile as head coach in 1998, and became the school’s athletic director 11 years later. His son, Steven, has always been around the program, and Woods often helped out as a volunteer coach on Steven’s youth teams.
In his sophomore season, Steven was a versatile fill-in for Fenwick as a safety, linebacker, and special teams player, and he jumped into action as the backup quarterback when the Crusaders fell, 28-22, to Ashland in the 2019 Division 6 Super Bowl.
As a senior, Woods has played quarterback, safety, and even tailback when the Crusaders shifted to different packages, leading Fenwick to an 8-3 record and a D5 semifinal appearance.
“We asked him to play a lot of different roles and do a lot of things based on the opponent, and he does it all without question,” said Woods.
“Over the years, I’ve probably been harder on him than most players and probably don’t give him enough praise. Some of the things he’s done this year, if this was any other quarterback, I would probably be touting him to the newspapers.
“As a father, I kind of want to brag about him, and I try not to. But it’s getting harder and harder.”
Since 1996, Fenwick has played at least seven different opponents on Thanksgiving, including Malden Catholic from 2000-05. Now it will renew that rivalry with Steven looking to finish his career on a high note.
“It’s going to be an emotional game, at least once it’s over,” said Steven, who will face his good friend, fellow Wakefield resident Aidan Sweeney, along with the rest of the Lancers. “It’s a big game to wrap everything up.
“I just try to be a role model for all the underclassmen, show them how they have to work and be committed in order to be successful. In my last game, I’ll just try to do the best I can, and make some memories.”
Joe Ferrante is also a versatile player for Framingham. His father has coached him throughout his youth, and became his head coach this season after four years as a Framingham assistant.
Their season started with a bang when Joe returned the opening kickoff against Walpole for a touchdown. After fracturing a fibula early in his sophomore campaign two years ago, Joe returned in time for the Thanksgiving game against Natick, and scored a special teams touchdown in that contest via a fumble recovery.
Now the wideout, tailback, safety, and linebacker gets his first opportunity to start on Thanksgiving, and Robert — who has been a physical education teacher in the Medford public schools system since 1992 — gets his first chance to serve as head coach in a historic rivalry.
“At the end of the season, it’s going to be special to look back on the time we had this season and throughout his high school career, and how lucky we were to spend that together,” said Robert. “It’s not often that you have that opportunity.”
Joe also plays lacrosse and hockey for Framingham.
Robert was an assistant for Medford girls’ basketball in the 1990s, and an assistant football coach for Medford, BB&N, Melrose, and Arlington before taking the job at Framingham. He found time in his busy schedule to help out with Joe’s youth teams.
“All the pointers that he’s ever given me have helped me improve as a player and overall person,” Joe said. “We’ve definitely become a lot closer. Our relationship was always strong, but having him as a head coach really brought us together.”
While those seniors are wrapping up their careers, Brian J. Vaughan is just getting started.
The sophomore has 15 touchdown passes and more than 1,400 passing yards this season, along with six rushing touchdowns and 922 yards on the ground.
Brian had never played quarterback prior to his freshman year, but his father gave him a chance to serve as backup during the Fall II season, and eventually gave him his first start in a huge test against Everett.
Classical fell, 42-12, but Brian showed promising flashes and tossed his first touchdown pass against an elite opponent.
After a summer working with Classical coach and former English great Tyler MacDonald, along with former NFL quarterback Todd Krueger, Brian is now in command of the Rams offense, and his father is impressed by his quick progression.
“I’m proud of the fact that in a short period he’s picked up the offense,” said Vaughan, who also played for Lynn English. “Week by week, he’s getting better.”
Aside from a brief season in 2015 when Vaughan was an assistant at Everett and Brian was a defensive standout for Everett’s Pop Warner team, he had never coached his son prior to high school.
Now the Northeastern graduate is working diligently to teach his son a spread system, but he tries not to bring that work home.
“Originally I didn’t go in thinking like that,” said Vaughan, who coached at Boston English, Pope John, and South Boston before becoming Classical head coach in 2017.
“But I felt with a young QB that’s just started playing the position, I didn’t want to overload him with a lot of stuff. When we have our meetings, that’s when we talk about QB stuff. When he’s home, I let him be a kid, and do his thing.”
Now Brian will try to do his thing for the Rams against their archrivals in a game that always draws a crowd at Manning Field.
English has won three of the last four meetings, including an unofficial “Thanksgiving” showdown last May. With a talented receiving corps, Brian can try to turn that trend around and add to Classical’s 56-41-9 lead in the series.
“He’s a great coach,” Brian said of his father. “And I know that as a coach, you want to make sure your players are well taught and disciplined, but as a father, you want to make sure your son feels loved. I try to separate the relationship while I’m on the field.
“I’m excited to play on Thanksgiving. Ever since he started coaching here, I’ve been on the sidelines, and now I get to play in it. It’s something I’ve been waiting to do for a while.”