Between coaches facing their alma mater, players battling familiar foes, and seniors looking to cement their storied careers with one more milestone, there is no shortage of story lines on the gridiron this Thanksgiving.
Massachusetts is home to the oldest football rivalries in the country, including Boston Latin vs. English (135 years) and Needham vs. Wellesley (134). This year, Medford and Malden meet at Fenway Park in the 134th installment of their rivalry and Watertown and Belmont tangle for the 100th time the following evening at Fenway.
Most of the action kicks off at 10 a.m. Thursday morning in what is the final game of the year for many programs, except for those lucky enough to be competing in the eight Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium (Dec. 2 and 3).
Here are some of the top story lines to watch:
▪ Will Super Bowl teams play their starters? — With the state championship games coming eight or nine games after Thanksgiving, coaches are faced with a tough decision about how long they should leave their starters in the game. In recent years, some staffs have decided not to play their starters at all, while some have left the decision up to the players. Key players who are dealing with injuries might be inclined to skip Thanksgiving and get healthy ahead of the Super Bowl.
▪ Wellesley at Needham (135th meeting) — The nation’s oldest public school rivalry is always played with an edge. A skirmish broke out toward the end of the 2019 meeting and Wellesley earned a narrow 34-28 victory in overtime last Thanksgiving to take a 65-60-9 lead in the series.
▪ Billerica at Chelmsford (96th meeting) — These teams hardly need any extra incentive, but the MVC Small title is on the line in this classic rivalry for the first time since 2005. Chelmsford is 30 points shy of setting the school record for points in a season and Billerica quarterback J.T. Green has topped 1,000 yards passing and rushing. Chelmsford leads the overall series, 62-28-5, as they play for the 91st time on Thanksgiving.
▪ Attleboro at North Attleborough (101st meeting) — After coaching at Attleboro for 10 years, Michael Strachan switches sides to his alma mater. His Rocketeers are coming off a disappointing 31-24 loss to Wakefield in the Division 3 state semifinals, but hold a 62-30-8 advantage in the rivalry.
▪ Mansfield at Foxborough (91st meeting) — Mansfield (8-2, 3-0) has cruised to three league wins after shifting to the Hockomock Davenport division this season, but Foxborough (6-5, 3-0) is looking to wrestle the league title away from the visiting Hornets.
▪ Wakefield at Melrose (112th meeting) — Wakefield coach John Rafferty (’70) has his alma mater marching to the Super Bowl after the first 11-0 start in program history. Rafferty coached at Melrose from 1992 to 2000, and Wakefield AD Brendan Kent was one of five brothers to play football at Melrose. Kent’s father, Jim, is a 22-year assistant at Melrose. Wakefield holds a 32-26-3 advantage in Thanksgiving meetings, but Melrose (62-42-7) leads the all-time series.
▪ Woburn at Winchester (121st meeting) — Last year, 1-8 Winchester gave 7-2 Woburn a thrilling finish in front of the largest crowd to attend a high school game at Fenway. In 2018, these rivals played to double overtime, and the all-time series is very close with Winchester holding a 55-53-12 advantage.
▪ English/New Mission at Boston Latin (135th meeting) — The oldest continuous rivalry prior to the forced hiatus in 2020 returned with English scoring a record 66 points in a win over Latin. Prior to that performance, Latin had won 52 of the previous 57 meetings to open an 83-38-13 lead.
▪ Peabody at Saugus (75th meeting) — Tanners senior quarterback Shea Lynch can break his own single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns and he only needs one more touchdown pass to break the career record in the Northeastern Conference. Junior Eli Batista is also on pace to break his own single-season records for receiving yards and touchdowns as Peabody looks to expand a 47-27 lead in this series.
▪ Brockton vs. Bridgewater-Raynham (11th meeting) — This is a relatively new Thanksgiving tradition, but the tradition of a Colombo coaching the Boxers has been in place since 1969. Armond Colombo led Brockton to nine Super Bowls, and his son, Peter, was the quarterback for the first title in 1972. In 2004, Peter took over as head coach, reaching five Super Bowls and winning two. He announced his retirement prior to this, his 19th season. Brockton will look to send their coach off with a win at Fenway Park to clinch the Southeast Conference title.
▪ Amesbury at Newburyport (99th meeting) — Amesbury (8-2, 5-1) can clinch at least a share of the Cape Ann League title by topping Newburyport (6-4, 4-2), which would also mark their 41st win in the rivalry. North Reading (10-1, 5-1) is hosting Lynnfield (6-4, 4-2) in the 53rd installment of that rivalry and the Hornets could share the title with Amesbury if both teams win.
▪ Framingham at Natick (117th meeting) — First-year Framingham coach David Wright has coached Natick’s Pop Warner A-Team and has five sons, including three stepsons, who have played for the Redhawks. Natick leads the series, 78-33-5.
▪ Revere at Winthrop (93rd meeting) — Revere (4-6, 4-2) has won five straight over Winthrop (6-4, 3-0), the longest streak for the Patriots in this border war.
▪ Nauset at Dennis-Yarmouth (25th meeting) — After going 1-12 between the Fall II and 2021 seasons, Nauset (6-4, 2-2) is on the rise under Jesse Peno (’99), who also helped resurrect the boys’ lacrosse program at his alma mater. Dennis-Yarmouth (3-7, 2-2) owns an 18-6 advantage in the series and has taken 12 of the last 13 meetings.
▪ Weymouth at Walpole (25th meeting) — Another rivalry reaching the quarter-century mark this season, this clash between Bay State Conference foes shouldn’t lack for offense. Walpole senior Corey Kilroy has over 3,000 passing yards and 43 total touchdowns over the last two years and senior captain Andrew Falzone needs 146 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark. Walpole is looking to move to 20-5 in the series.