It's almost Thanksgiving – where's the football?

High School Football may be big in Texas, but it’s not as old or as time-honored a tradition as it is where I’m from.  Although I’ll grant they may have taken it to another level.

Friday night lights is real phenomena here in the Lone Star state, but my Bay State commonwealth of origin is the grandaddy of high school football.  As Thanksgiving Day approaches I’m going to miss the annual Thanksgiving Day football games.  for all the football madness that is Texas, Thanksgiving Day morning high school football games are unknown here.  I grew up in a town, Leominster, MA, that was part of the 10th oldest high school Thanksgiving Day game in the country.  Leominster High School has been playing Fitchburg High School since 1894.   There are four other games that began in 1894 as well.  In fact, of the 24 games that hold the top ten places (due to ties) ten of them are from Massachusetts and another three from New England, including the oldest high school football rivalry in the country between Norwich Free Academy and New London High School in Connecticut which dates to 1875!  Was there even a football IN Texas in 1875?   Odessa Permian and Midland Lee, Texas have only been playing each other (not on Thanksgiving) since 1961.  That game’s just a baby.  Friday night night-lights.  The oldest high school game in Texas I could find is Guadalupe River Shootout between New Braunfels High School and Seguin High School that dates back to 1914 – not too shabby, but still 20th century.

Next Thursday morning will continue a tradition between the Leominster High Blue Devils and Fitchburg High Red Raiders that  completely takes over the two communities.  Opening day and homecoming and even playoff football have nothing on turkey day.  One team could be headed to the Super Bowl and the other headed nowhere, but a win on Thanksgiving makes a season. Thanksgiving dinner will taste slightly better in one town than in the other and just about every Thanksgiving meal in both towns won’t start anytime before 1 p.m. due to the game’s 10 a.m. starting time.

When I candidated for the ministry here in Texas they asked me if I knew about football.  I told no lies when I said I understood this part of the Texas culture completely and I think some people found it curious that someone from central Massachusetts understood what Friday night football means in Texas, but I do, because I grew up with Thanksgiving football culture in Massachusetts. And not only that, I grew up with football in a part of Massachusetts that is football mad like Texas.

Leominster’s Wikipedia entry tells the story:

Football is  the main competitive sport in Leominster. Leominster has 10 State Championships second to only Brockton who has 11. Leominster High’s football team has faced Fitchburg High School’s team since 1894 and have met each other 125 consecutive years and 103 consecutive years on Thanksgiving, one of the longest Thanksgiving Day rivalries in the state. Both teams have been very competitive, but Fitchburg leads the series 58-57-9. Leominster has lost three consecutive super bowls to Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The last Superbowl win was by the dominating 2003 squad who crushed upon Minnechaug, MA

Football is played at Doyle Field in Leominster.

The original stadium included a press box, bleachers for 6,200 people, and additional portable bleachers that could be placed in the end zone making seating for nearly 10,000 fans. Doyle field was dedicated on October 10, 1931. Doyle had spent $200,000 on the project. 2005 was the start of the Doyle Field Renovation Project. The project consists a three-phase plan to update the complex. Phase One will cost an estimated $4 million

A film has been made about the game.

As the week draws closer to Thanksgiving the local daily will run a an entire special section on the game.  The weekly paper has already published its pieces:
http://www.leominsterchamp.com/news/2008/1121/sports/038.html

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