Three Cheers for Chelmsford High School
My alma mater and its bitter Thanksgiving rival, Billerica, have been getting some pretty nice coverage this year:
Billerica and Chelmsford got together Thursday for the 66th consecutive Thanksgiving.
Chelmsford won 20-14 in overtime to clinch the Merrimack Valley Conference title and take a 50-21-5 lead in the series between the suburban Boston schools, which started in 1927 (they began on Thanksgiving in 1938).
Retired Chelmsford principal George Simonian, a historian of the rivalry, says 11 times in the last 20 years the game has decided the conference title.
"This is old, New England high school football," he says. (USA Today)
"It's not just in football. Billerica and Chelmsford are rivals in any sport they play. They could sit down for the World Series of Poker, and it would still be a rivalry," said Haines, who once went 15 years without missing a single game and has never missed a Thanksgiving Day game since the fifth grade. "It's so bad you can't even wear maroon in this town Thanksgiving week."
School Superintendent Robert Calabrese hasn't missed the holiday game in the 20 years he's been in town, and explained that the rivalry's roots run deep.
"This rivalry has a lot of ingredients. All lot of these people grew up in Billerica and then moved to Chelmsford and now their kids play for the other team," he said.
But no matter who you're rooting for or where the game is played, you can rest assured the stands on both sides will be packed with fans.
"It was the only game that no matter where it was played people were wrapped around the field," said Billerica Athletic Director Michael Granfield, who has watched as a kid, a player and now an administrator. (Lowell Sun)
Billerica won two coin flips on Thanksgiving in Chelmsford. Neither, however, brought the team a postseason berth.
In danger of forcing a tie atop the Merrimack Valley Conference with a loss and an Andover win, Chelmsford stacked up Billerica quarterback Dan McWilliams on fourth down to seal a 20-14 overtime victory and a spot in Tuesday's Division 1A playoffs vs. Melrose.
With his receivers covered, McWilliams was forced to run the ball, but was met by the Chelmsford defense well short of the end zone. He had barely hit the ground when the entire Lions team stormed the field. (Boston Globe)
It was as if the Lions were making a goal-line stand against two demons - the visiting Indians and the dreaded coin toss. And they weren't going to be denied at any cost [...] Needless to say, the tension had built to an almost palpable state with every snap of the football, particularly in overtime [...] The scene at the end was pure schoolboy. One team in a sense of utter jubilation, the other in devastation and disbelief. [Billerica High quarterback] [Dan]McWilliams was inconsolable. (Karen Guregian, Boston Herald (full disclosure: Guregian is herself a CHS graduate))
My mother said the local broadcasts of the normally-frigid game have become astoundingly professional in the past few years, and this year featured a scoreboard / stats meter across the top and other info-graphics as with pro and college games; sharp, clear picture; and even little animated Thanksgiving logos.
My father said grown men were tailgating outside Billerica High's field before the game. Beer and sausages and everything, like it was the Patriots.
I didn't see the game on TV or otherwise, but you know, I realized an interesting little factoid about myself: I don't know the words to my college fight song, but I remember every one from my high school's anthem.