Thanksgiving Day is finally shaping up after a period of disruption this past winter that affected our local football communities, namely Oxford and Auburn.
Tradition has lost its shine in today’s world. While the Bartlett -Southbridge Thanksgiving Day football game still remains as the "grandaddy," going on 93 years in South County, the brand new Oxford-Bay Path Thanksgiving Day football game in 2013 will get a slap on the behind just like a new born baby. Kudos to both the Bay Path and Oxford administrations for getting this one done. Oxford-Bay Path made too much sense after Oxford decided to pull the plug on Auburn after 41 years of playing on turkey day. Please remember that this is an old school opinion. I believe that the Oxford-Auburn holiday game had a lot more chapters in it than 41. So be it. It’s over and as they easily say today, "let’s move on."
There still is no word on who is the home team for this year’s Oxford-Bay Path game, but one thing is for sure, these two schools will play each other on Thanksgiving. Both football programs are rich in tradition and have played each other over the years during the regular season. They opened up their seasons against each other last year in 2012. I am happy to see that Bay Path coach Al Dhembe will get to coach a Bay Path team on Thanksgiving.
Now let me throw in my 2 cents. Imagine the Oxford-Bay Path game on Thanksgiving eve at Nichols College. Talk about a jump start on attracting a crowd. This would be a great shot in the arm for the community. Nichols is empty on Thanksgiving because of the holiday break. What a thrill for the kids who are playing. Both programs will benefit by playing on Vendetti Field, but the real winner will be Nichols if they extend the olive branch in the right way. Community relations go a long way. Institute the Paul Brissette award for the game’s M.V.P. in honor of the founder and first football coach of the Oxford Pirates.This is a win-win for everybody.
Another good move for Thanksgiving is that Sutton and Blackstone-Millville will be competing against each other. Both start their first year of varsity football. This start-up rivalry will be a good one to follow in football.
Shepherd Hill and Tantasqua will be 39 years old this Thanksgiving and Shepherd Hill will face their toughest schedule ever in 39 years. The Rams play at Fitchburg, at Gardner, Leominster, at Grafton, Wachusett, SPM, at Holy Name, and Tantasqua. Weeks 8, 9, and 10 will be determined if the Rams win at least 5 of their first seven games. All those teams are well versed on the double wing offense that the Rams run so successfully. By the way, other than Grafton, what do the other six teams have in common with Shepherd Hill? I have forewarned everybody about this new 2013 playoff format. The players, coaches, and fans lose out on this. Opening Friday night in Fitchburg is not the place you want to be in early September and travelling to Gardner the next week makes away games with nothing in common a real bore. The MIAA and the football committee are dead wrong on this new format. Nothing makes sense. That’s the reason today’s high school athletes are not passionate about Thanksgiving Day rivalries or district titles.
While Shepherd Hill’s 2013 football schedule isn’t a fan favorite or travel friendly, the Bartlett Indians actually caught a break. In order, this is Bartlett’s gig for 2013. At David Prouty, at Millbury, Leicester, Oxford, Northbridge, Blackstone-Millville, at Uxbridge and Southbridge. On paper, I have the Indians winning 5 of their first seven to get them into the playoff picture. What do you think? Leicester and Northbridge are the two teams Bartlett could fall short. Bartlett has three key pieces on the chess board returning in their quarterback and leading rusher along with their fullback.
Oxford’s football schedule finally gets a break after many years of no relief. The Pirates can compete with the folowing in 2013. Uxbridge, Leicester, South, at Bartlett, at North, Millbury, at David Prouty, and Bay Path.
Good Luck to all the local athletes trying out for spring sports on Monday.