Throughout the fall sports season, I have heard a lot of different opinions on the annual Thanksgiving football games that are played each year.
I have heard some people show their support for Turkey Bowls, and feel that there is nothing wrong with the landscape of each event as it is currently constructed.
On the other hand, I have heard some people complain that these games no longer carry the same weight as years past and that kids are no longer as passionate about squaring off against their rivals on the holiday.
Another issue, and one that I find far more interesting, is the scheduling aspect.
Prior to last year, the high school football playoffs typically ended the week after Thanksgiving. Although the games were exhibitions, they were still played in the thick of the playoffs when kids were still locked in and motivated.
Now, the games are played after the conclusion of each year when kids have wrapped up their seasons.
There seems to be a portion of spectators that are upset with that schedule, as they feel that kids do not bring their best come Thursday. However, even if that is the case, I am totally on board with the season concluding with Thanksgiving.
As competitive as these games are, and as much pride as teams take in winning, these games are meant to be fun ways of celebrating the holiday.
Teams shouldn’t have to worry about staying healthy for the next week, and they also should not have to shift their focus away from the normal playoff tournament.
On top of that, the seniors on these teams should be able to play their finals games in a (somewhat) relaxed atmosphere, where having fun and representing their schools truly comes first.
Although there is nothing like wrapping up a high school career hoisting a state championship trophy, it also is rough to finish on the losing end, or never having the opportunity to compete for a title to begin with. One thing that I love about Thanksgiving football is that it’s a totally different atmosphere. Even the losing teams are excited to be with their family and friends on one of the most special days on the calendar.
And back to my original statement, from what I’ve seen around here, kids are absolutely excited to participate in these games.
Last year when I covered Pilgrim and Toll Gate, the kids were so anxious to hit the field and had a blast, as did the fans.
Believe me when I tell you, I can be a real sports downer and a real sports pessimist. I tend to pick things apart prior to praising them and am always looking for the flaws before the successes.
However, I am fully on board with Thanksgiving football, and am totally for holding the games as the final contests of the seasons.
Next, I am so happy to see Pilgrim and Toll Gate kicking butt so far in the playoffs.
The Pilgrim field hockey team recaptured the state title with a thrilling shootout win over Tiverton. The Pilgrim unified volleyball team won its championship over the weekend, and the Pilgrim girls soccer team is onto the semifinals and looks unstoppable. The Toll Gate boys soccer team is also heading to the semifinals.
Then there is football which is wrapping up the regular season this week. Pilgrim just took home another statement win with a lopsided defeat of Narragansett, who was also unbeaten heading into the matchup. Toll Gate is vying for a playoff spot as well, and a win this weekend will propel the Titans into the big dance.
It’s crazy to think that a mere four months ago, we were ready to put sports on hold in the city.
This is the exact response that these athletes needed, and the exact response that we all had hoped for. There is an abundance of talent across all sports in this city and to see it either not be celebrated or be taken somewhere else would have been a shame.
I understand the budget crisis, I mean, I understand that times are tough and messy, I don’t understand how it has gotten to this point, though. But my point is that I recognize that the school committee was not happy to cut these sports.
Hopefully though, those involved will look at what these sports bring to the community and will consider them an untouchable item should there be additional cuts in the future.
I will go through a couple predictions to wrap up this week’s column.
First off, I fully expect the Pilgrim girls soccer team to win the Division II title next weekend. Outside of one or two contests, the Pats haven’t even been pushed. They just blasted a quality Wheeler team 7-0 in the quarters for crying out loud. I expect them to roll to the title, and to do it with relative ease.
Next, I believe that the Toll Gate boys will reach the state championship. Will they win it? I’d have to say no, St. Ray’s at this point has to be considered the favorite, especially since they shut the Titans out 3-0 earlier this year. Not that past matchups are the end all be all, but it is something that must be considered.
Toll Gate has had a breakout year though and had success against Exeter-West Greenwich, who it will be facing in the semis. I like the Titans to get it done, then anything can happen after that.
Lastly, I also believe that the Toll Gate football team will win this week against EWG. The two clubs are neck and neck in the standings and have pretty similar wins and losses in terms of opponents, but the Titans have been pretty resilient throughout the year.
Have things always been pretty for the Titans? Nope, but have they always responded well after a tough loss? Yup.
I like the Titans to win and to clinch a postseason berth, but once again, what happens from there is anyone’s guess.