The best part about Thanksgiving football? Every game, no matter how much either team is out of the playoff race, means something.
Sure, you can watch the Patriots roll against a depressing Lions team while you are trying to avoid your distant aunts or uncles and eating about four times as much as any person should be allowed. Or you could spend the day watching your town's high school team battle for Thanksgiving supremacy against a rival.
Meanwhile, here is what every team in Division 1 should be thinking about while bellying up to the table:
Andover is thankful for the opportunity to play for the Merrimack Valley Conference Large championship on Turkey Day against Central Catholic. On more than one occasion, the Golden Warriors were a play away from losing to Lowell in the much-discussed 88-82 overtime thriller. An 'L' would have handed Central Catholic the league title, but an out-of-this-world performance from Andrew Coke (eight touchdowns) adds a little bit of gravy to the Thanksgiving matchup.
Billerica is thankful for Nick LaSpada. It's no secret that the Indians have been one of the more disappointing teams this season (or maybe pundits like yours truly were too enamored with last season), but LaSpada keeps Billerica as perhaps the most dangerous .500 team around. His 23 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing scores make him a legit threat to repeat as the Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year.
BC High is thankful for Preston Cooper. The Eagles are going to be back on top of the mountain next year, mark my words. And the cornerstone of the 2011 team is going to be Cooper, who has scored at least two touchdowns in seven of nine games and is the most consistent scoring threat on the squad. In an offense still growing into itself, the junior running back has been the biggest threat.
Brockton is thankful for MIAA tiebreakers that make...sense! While the very concept of having the Big Three is rather disagreeable, at least they avoid the coin toss and other laughable tie-breaking procedures. Yes, the Boxers probably don't deserve to make the big dance as a result of losing to New Bedford. But if the Whalers follow it up by losing to a Durfee team that Brockton beat, then there is something of a paradox. Instead of rewarding which team has been the worst for the longest, just base it off those games that everyone says “do not matter”: the nonleague games. Because of a little bit of logic, Brockton will face the Xaverian/St. John's Prep winner in the first round of the playoffs if Durfee beats New Bedford.
Catholic Memorial is thankful for out-of-state juggernauts. It has been another start fast, finish slow season for the Knights. But maybe the boys from West Roxbury should start thinking about ditching the Catolic Conference and just play a New England gauntlet. In back-to-back weeks, CM topped the elite teams from Vermont (Hartford) and New Hampshire (Bishop Guertin.)
Cambridge is thankful for Marvin Bonhomme and Jordan Thomas. The Falcons broke a 15-game losing streak before the efforts of Thomas (128 yards, two touchdowns) and Bonhomme (a game-icing interception) highlighted a 21-18 victory over Arlington Catholic.
Central Catholic is thankful for tight victories. The Raiders are battling for the MVC Large title next Thursday because of its nine points garnered in Large and Small play. Six of those points were scooped up in wins over Large opponents Lowell (by eight), Chelmsford (by two), and Billerica (by one). Central has made close games a habit – the Raiders lost to Methuen and St. John's Prep by a combined three points – but wouldn't be in a position to make the playoffs if not for its trio of heart-stopping wins.
Chelmsford is thankful for the first half of the season. The Lions rode strong defense and a balanced offense to a four-game win streak to open the season and climbed high in the Globe Top 20 with a 5-1 record in mid-October. Since then, Chelmsford has gone 1-3 with its three losses costing it an invaluable three points in the MVC Large race, knocking the Lions out of contention.
Durfee is thankful for the road. Not-so-proud owners of just one win in the previous two seasons, the Hilltoppers have tripled that total this year with three victories, all of which came away from Fall River. In coach Rob McCoy's first year, they nipped Taunton and Apponequet and torched Southeastern. One more at New Bedford on Thanksgiving in Durfee's first meaningful game in a long time will keep the Whalers out of the playoffs.
Everett is thankful for “athletes.” That's always the first word to come out of observers' mouths when discussing the 2010 Crimson Tide. There is a plethora of talent spread over just about every position on the field, but the skill positions are what really shine. Whether it's Manny Asprilla or Vondell Langston at running back, Matt Costello or Asprilla at receiver, or Jonathan DiBiaso at quarterback, Everett has some of the top players in the state at their respective positions. That, plus a softer-than-Chris Bosh Greater Boston League, has made Everett the only Division 1 team to lock up a playoff spot before the squash and pumpkin pies are served.
Lowell is thankful for Jeff Moore. Beating the teams it stacks up against and getting mostly smoked by the teams it doesn't, Lowell only has to beat Haverhill on Thanksgiving for a 5-6 record which, after a 2-9 season, is a step in the right direction. Moore abruptly came to Lowell after quickly building a winner in Dracut to lead his hometown team to a 3-0 start that was followed by losses to stiff competition. But with a blistering passing offense that helps Lowell average 29 points per game (more than any team in the Big Three or the Catholic Conference), Moore has his team ready to put a scare into anyone. Just ask Andover.
Malden is thankful for 2012. Both in 2005 and last season, the Golden Tornadoes were just a play away from dethroning Everett as the Greater Boston League champions. This year they were a trendy pick to upset the Crimson Tide before injuries ravaged a very imposing offensive line. Looking at the youth of Everett's roster, Malden probably isn't going to bestowed dark horse status next season. But what better way to celebrate the end of the world in 2012 than Malden beating Everett for GBL gold?
Malden Catholic is thankful for non-Catholic schools. Against teams that do not charge college tuition to attend, the Lancers are a 5-1. Against Catholic Conference residents, they are 0-4. MC has been unable to shake this problem for awhile, but can still finish above .500 with a Thanksgiving win at Waltham. The numbers suggest MC has a great chance.
Medford is thankful for next year. After 2008's monstrosity (0-11 over three different coaches), Rico Dello Iacono needed to jumpstart the program. So on his way to an improbable five-win season that almost saw Medford battle Malden on Thanksgiving for the Greater Boston League championship, Dello Iacono had few chances to get his underclassmen any playing time, which partly contributed to this year's winless campaign. Next year should be a vast improvement.
New Bedford is thankful for November 13th. The Whalers were well on their way to another season of .500 or so football, keeping up a solid, though rather unimpressive, run under coach Dennis Golden. Going into a Saturday afternoon game against the baddest team on Route 24, the Whalers seemed to be the only ones aware that while Brockton had been given the Big Three championship since before the season started, the Boxers still hadn't earned it. One shocking 23-21 result later, New Bedford can cement that win as one of the biggest in school history with a defeat of Durfee on Thanksgiving (or as its none in high school journalism circles, Hell with turkey.).
St. John's Prep is thankful for Tyler Coppola. The Eagles have competed with, but not beaten, the top dogs around. To advance to the playoffs, they will have to clear that hurdle when they visit Xaverian for the Catholic Conference heavyweight championship of the world....sorry, I've been watching too much wrestling lately. The word in Carraggi's Corner, however, is that Prep will pull out the Thanksgiving upset, perhaps marking the first time in the past two years I've picked against the X-Men. Coppola has thrust himself into the circle of elite playmakers in Division 1, becoming a scoring Picasso that eats up yardage. He is one of only three players with 100 points in the division.
Somerville is thankful for Week 1. Not a lot has gone right for the Highlanders this season, scratching out only three wins and being shut out four times. But all was well after the first game of the season against Greater Lawrence, which despite being a Division 4 team is a good program. Somerville won, 28-0, in its most convincing win of the year. Since then, however, the Highlanders have headed downhill.
Xaverian is thankful for short memories. The Hawks have fallen twice this season, once to Everett in one of the most high-profile games of the season and once to Bridgewater-Raynhan in overtime. Still, the defending Super Bowl champions rebounded to topple powerhouse St. John's (Shrewsbury) followed by important Catholic Conference demolitions of BC High and Catholic Memorial. Not many teams can rebound off those nonleague losses in time for league play, as tough as they may be.
As for myself, I'm just thankful to be blogging about Massachusetts football while dabbling my toes in a pool in Miami. Kids, there is no better job than being a journalist.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.