The Bishop Hendricken football team has won 20 consecutive Thanksgiving games over Toll Gate, and the Hawks will be favored to keep that streak going when the two teams meet again this year.
But with Hendricken making the playoffs each of the last four years, the game has taken on a very different look.
For the Titans, it’s the final game of their season, and they’ll hold nothing back.
Yet, for the Hawks, it’s a game that they always want to win, but also manage well enough so that they’re healthy and ready to go for a Division I semifinal game that will be played the following Tuesday.
It’s a balancing act for Hendricken, and the game is itself is a mixing of two teams in very different situations.
“Our big thing is to have fun,” Toll Gate head coach Matt Mancuso said. “I know they’re getting ready for a playoff game. The tougher a game we make it on them early, the quicker those guys will be out.”
The Titans went 0-7 this year in Division II-B, but did pick up a non-league victory on Nov. 10 against Pilgrim for their first win of the season. Hendricken went 6-2 in Division I and is coming off a loss to La Salle in its most recent game.
The Hawks allowed the fewest points in all of D-I, and they’ll look to keep that trend up against a Toll Gate team that put up the fewest points in D-II-A.
It seems like a little bit of a mismatch on paper, but there’s still urgency on the Hawks’ side. Nobody wants to be the team that ends the long winning streak.
“It’s especially big for the seniors,” Hendricken head coach Keith Croft said. “I think they want to keep the streak going against Toll Gate. We’d like to try to get all the seniors to start, or at least play significantly from the beginning of the game.”
The game will be played on Wednesday night this year, at Hendricken at 7 p.m.
The Titans will be taking another shot at snapping the streak and finishing the season strong.
“We’ve got to play physical,” Mancuso. “If we go down there and let them know that they can just run all over us, it’s going to be as ugly as can be.”
The Hawks, meanwhile, will be trying to beat Toll Gate and then turn their focus to a playoff game just six days later.
“You worry about Toll Gate a little more as the week winds down, get healthy a little bit,” Croft said. “We give a little extra attention to some of the younger guys who haven’t played that much with the varsity. Hopefully we can get them out there on Thanksgiving and then get ready for Tuesday.”
Prediction: Hendricken 35, Toll Gate 6