DANVERS (CBS) – Instead of a traditional football game, two high schools are competing in a turkey war this Thanksgiving. The students are taking their rivalry from the football field to the food bank.

“That’s the game, that you’re circling, you’re starring, you’re underlining, you’re putting it on your mirror- you’re putting it everywhere,” said Michael Berluti, quarterback and senior at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood. He knows the importance of the annual Thanksgiving Day football game between his school and St. John’s Prep in Danvers.

It’s a tradition that goes back years, as Head of School at Xaverian Brothers High School Dr. Jacob Conca explained, “The St. John’s Prep and Xaverian rivalry goes back on Thanksgiving all the way to the early 90’s but we’ve been playing the school since the mid-60’s.”

Berluti added, “two years ago we actually played at Fenway Park on the baseball field and that was absolutely amazing. It’s what you look forward to as a Xaverian football player, being able to compete against your rival on Thanksgiving Day. There’s nothing better.”

Xaverian and St. Johns Prep play at Fenway Park, Nov. 25, 2015. (WBZ-TV)

With the game cancelled this year, the schools looked to keep their spirit of competition alive with “Touchdowns for Turkey.”

So, how does it work? Dr. Conca explained, “Normally this rivalry is extremely competitive on the field but this year it’s a rivalry for good. So we put together a scoring system to figure out which school can generate the most food for donations at the local food pantry.” Each time 7% of the school’s community makes a donation, a touchdown is scored. The scoring system aims to create a fair way of judging the schools, which differ in number of students.

Senior at St. John’s Prep Jordan Young noted, “It definitely gives a sense of normalcy to still have this competition with Xaverian, to still be able to communicate with our rivalry schools.”

Wendy Olson, Assistant Principal for Student Life at the Danvers school, added, “what is provided is something fun, a fun distraction, a reminder that Thanksgiving is around the corner. We’re missing out on the rivalry but we can still have a little fun too.”

For these two rivals, bragging rights are on the line: the head of school and principal of the losing school will have to wear the other school’s jersey for the day.

Young explained, “even if we lose- which we won’t- we’re going to give back to the community and make sure that everybody can have a great Thanksgiving.”

Rachel Holt

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