Football has been a Thanksgiving Day tradition in Massachusetts dating well back into the 1800s. But 2020 will mark the first time in more than a century that high school football – in some form – is not played at all on the holiday itself, the season having been pushed back until at least late February because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In past years the games always have gone on, at some point, but weather occasionally has been the biggest challenge to the usual Thursday morning routines:
1989 — This was the closest there has been to a total whitewash, as heavy snow Thanksgiving morning sliced the schedule to a half-dozen or so games across the state, including just three in Eastern Mass. Long-departed rivals Don Bosco and Dom Savio met for the first time on the holiday at frozen Memorial Stadium in East Boston, Bosco’s Pete Alvarado scoring late for a 12-6 win. Medway edged Millis, 22-7, as Chris Magliaro returned a kickoff and interception for scores, and Haverhill was a 22-14 winner over Salem, N.H. behind a pair of TD runs by quarterback Brendan Skafas.
In the lone game in Central Mass., veteran coach Sandy Ruggles secured his 100th victory at North Middlesex, which capped an unbeaten regular season by rolling over Lunenburg, 40-16. Aside from Cohasset-Hull and Danvers-Gloucester, who dusted off the fields the next day, the remainder of the 79 scheduled games in Eastern Mass. waited until Saturday to kick off.
1971 — Another day that was nearly a complete casualty to the elements, and Don Bosco once again was one of the few teams to play. Same site — the stadium adjacent to Logan Airport — but this time the opponent was Christopher Columbus, with Don Bosco pulling out a 20-0 victory. Marian also was a 20-0 winner, beating Matignon to clinch a share of the Catholic Central League championship. Beverly and Salem played, as did Taunton vs. Coyle-Cassidy, and Middleborough vs. Bridgewater-Raynham. Pope John also faced Our Lady’s of Newton, but according to the report in the next day’s Globe, the game was called when a player slipped on the bad turf and suffered a sprained knee on the opening play of the second half. All games in Central and Western Mass. were postponed.
1945 — This time it was pouring rain, not snow, that wreaked havoc on most of the schedule. A total of 14 games were played — Beverly-Salem once again was one of them, along with some of the longest-running rivalries in state history. Both Boston English-Boston Latin and Malden-Medford slogged to 0-0 ties, while Brockton-Waltham, Brookline-Newton, Falmouth-Barnstable, Fitchburg-Leominster, Hudson-Marlborough, Marblehead-Swampscott, and North Quincy-Quincy also squared off as planned.
Weather issues have caused other relatively minor schedule disruptions in other years, including 2018 when forecasted bitter cold moved many schools to play a day early, although a majority of games still kicked off Thanksgiving morning . . . In 1985, there were 12 postponed games in Eastern Mass. because of snow, and another 11 a decade earlier in 1975 . . . More snow scuttled about half the schedule in 1940, with a half-dozen games postponed more than a week.
Jim Clark can be reached at email@example.com.