Serving up Turkey Day football in Massachusetts

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by Jeff Fisher

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Thanksgiving Day high school football is my single most favorite day of the year.

It has nothing to do with state championships being won, but in most cases the energy going into the Turkey Day games is as high as any state championship match-up.

As most of you know, I was raised on two Turkey Day games in eastern Pennsylvania during the 60’s and 70’s.  In the morning, we would watch my alma mater Wilson High School play Nazareth at Lehigh University and then head 15 minutes east to Lafayette College for the Forks of the Delaware Battle between Easton (Pennsylvania) and Phillipsburg (New Jersey).  Wilson and Nazareth no longer play each other, Thursday will mark the 108th meeting between Easton and P’burg.

Turkey Day football is definitely a northeast thing with only a few games being played outside of the area.

In 2009, Trisha Hoffman and I ventured to New London and Norwich, Connecticut to watch the Turkey Day game between New London High School and Norwich Free Academy.  These two schools played the first-ever high school football game on May 15, 1875.  Back then the game wasn’t played on Thanksgiving. In fact, the game didn’t move to Thanksgiving until 2000, however, on Thursday, the two will meet for the 154th time.

While, New London and Norwich Free Academy hold the distinction of being the first-ever high school football game, we’re talking turkey today.

The distinction for the first-ever Turkey Day high school football game goes to Needham and Wellesley in Massachusetts.  This Thursday, the two will meet for the 127th time since 1882, making it the oldest public school rivalry in the nation.  Wellesley won the first match-up in 1882 by a 4-0 score.  Wellesley leads the all-time series 60-57 with nine ties.

Massachusetts, land of the first Thanksgiving between the Native Americans and Pilgrims, is the leader in Turkey Day games with over 100 contests played before families sit-down to gobble down some turkey.

Another biggie in the Bay State Thursday will be Boston Latin and Boston English, who will be meeting for the 128th time.  Last year English snapped a 15-game Latin win streak.  Latin leads the all-time series 77-37 with 13 times.  The game is played at Harvard Stadium.

Like Needham and Wellesley, Malden and Medford will play for the 127th time on Thursday.  Malden leads the all-time series 62-54 with ten ties.

Like the English/Latin series, Natick has a big lead on Framingham in its series. Natick brings a 71-32-5 series lead into the 108th meeting.

Other Massachusetts Turkey Day rivalry games that began before the turn of the 20th Century…

Amesbury vs. Newburyport – 1891

Barnstable vs. Falmouth – 1895

Beverly vs. Salem – 1891

BMC Durfee vs. New Bedford – 1893

Fitchburg vs. Leomister – 1894

Newton North vs. Brookline – 1894

Reading vs. Stoneham – 1899

Winchester vs. Woburn – 1893

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.