NEEDHAM (CBS) – Thanksgiving Day means three things in Massachusetts.
Family, food, and high school football.
Thanksgiving Day football games are about rivalries, bragging rights, and bonds shared by teammates that will last a lifetime. But like so many other things this year, the tradition has been put on hold.
On Thanksgiving morning, it was sadly a quiet day at Needham High School.
Needham and Wellesley High School were scheduled to meet for the 133rd time. It is the oldest public high school rivalry in the country, going back to 1882.
“We’re pretty bummed that we can’t play and keep the rivalry going, but it has been canceled before, you know, during the Spanish Flu before World War I, World War II,” said Needham High School senior Tommy Fullbrook.
Last year’s game turned into a fourth quarter brawl. The two teams never even shook hands.
“I think both programs are ready to move forward, get past that and get back to what this rivalry is all about,” said Wellesley High School football coach Jesse Davis.
So instead of putting on the pads, the seniors and coaches from each team met on the football field for a socially-distanced picture.
It wasn’t the memory they had hoped to take from this day.
“It would’ve been better if we were playing on Thanksgiving,” said Wellesley High School senior Joey Knight. “It’s like, we’ve been playing for so long. It’s weird to not be playing on Thanksgiving.”
And it’s not just the game that these players are missing.
“I miss playing with my guys. I miss practicing every day and getting everybody here,” said Needham High School senior Andrew Barnett. “Would’ve been a great day just for the whole town, just to be able to play.”
There is a possibility of spring football, and that’s what these players are focused on.
“It’s definitely been tough, but you got to keep your head up,” said Needham High School senior Will McDonald. “You got to keep moving. You got to take what you can get.”
Whether it is in the spring or next fall, the rivalry will continue.
“These towns are very similar. The character of the kids is very similar. And so, I think that brings out the best in terms of competition, and energy, and effort. And they want to be good, not just for themselves but for the town,” said Needham High School football coach Doug Kopsco.
Here’s hoping they do get to play football this spring. For all the seniors across the state, maybe those Thanksgiving rivalry games will be played closer to Easter.