Following is the third in a series of Thanksgiving football previews.
The more things change in the disparities between the Boston English and Boston Latin football teams, the more they stay the same.
A season that was shaping up to culminate in perhaps the most competitive meeting between the historic rivals on Thanksgiving morning in years, has once again ended with the Blue & Blue struggling to field a team to play in Harvard Stadium at 10 a.m.
“We are going to have a game,” a harried Boston English coach Chris Boswell said on Monday afternoon as he came out of a meeting about the status of the team with the school’s headmaster. “We’re just dealing with our normal challenges, just making sure we have enough kids to play."
After English’s only wins the last two seasons came on forfeitures, they started this season with 24 players.
But a rash of injuries and other issues have left them with about 17 players, Boswell said.
Earlier this fall, however, it seemed like things would be different in the 126th meeting between English and Latin.
English (3-7) won two straight games in September and then, after losing a nail biter to O’Bryant in overtime, won their third game of the season against Charlestown.
In the meantime, Latin School (1-9) looked like it would be winless going into
Thanksgiving before they finally beat Weston, 38-0, Nov. 9. They haven’t played since.
“We finally figured out how to win, that’s obviously huge going into this game,” said Latin's standout senior running back Jhalen Bien-Aime, who scored three touchdowns on 148 yards last year against English.
“If it wasn’t for that win maybe we are a little nervous coming into this game because we literally didn’t know how to win a game.”
Bien-Aime also noted that his team still has an edge since they play in the tougher Dual County League while English plays in the Boston City League's weaker South division. And Boswell noted that English has only beat Latin once since 1981 and has lost the last 14 meetings between the two schools.
“The odds aren’t necessarily in our favor just because they had a bad season,” he said. “They still have good kids. [Bien-Aime] is a really good player.”
It also hasn’t helped that over the last month English has been plagued by the usual combination of injuries, player disinterest, and eligibility concerns.
“We’ll have a kid who plays a game and then he doesn’t want to play anymore,” Boswell said. “And then we had a bunch of injuries. … We just stick with our philosophy, keep grinding it out, living off the fact that we need to run, block and tackle. It doesn’t change the fact that we need to do that it.
"It doesn’t matter who’s on the field or not; next man up. You can’t sit there and whine and complain. You just have to play.”
Boston Latin coach John McDonough is pleased English will be able to field a team.
“It’s nice to keep it going, there’s obviously been a discrepancy in wins and losses over the years but the last couple of years they’ve had a change of coaches and they have gotten better. They won three games this year, that’s a big thing.
“Being that it’s Thanksgiving it makes it special. We don’t go in there overconfident. You might say it’s a one-game season. This is one the kids are going to remember when they come back for their reunion.”
And for the English players who do remain, the dream of beating Latin is alive and well.
"The whole team has been talking about it," senior center Jordan Carter said. “If that were to happen, that’s amazing. We’ll be like ‘It’s our first year beating Latin in 14 years.’ This will be the team, this will be the turnaround. That would feel really good.
“That’s my Super Bowl; if we could beat Latin that’s my Super Bowl.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.