Thanksgiving in the spring

David Willis, Andover Townsman, Mass.
·4 min read

Apr. 22—It may not have been Thanksgiving Day, but it felt like it could have been the traditional Turkey Day gridiron matchup between rivals Andover High and North Andover.

It was a Thursday, after all — last Thursday, April 15 to be exact — when the Golden Warriors and Scarlet Knights faced off in this "Fall 2 season."

It was a cold, blustery day last week, befitting of the November holiday. Had it not been overcast, the sun would have been on the wrong side of the field a 6 p.m., compared to the 10:30 a.m. Thanksgiving kickoff time. The sun rises on the home side at Eugene V. Lovely Field in Andover, and sets behind the away team's sideline. But the clouds blocked that out.

It wasn't the holiday, but a 38-0 victory over their Turkey Day rival was just as memorable to the Golden Warriors who lost out on their final Thanksgiving football game due to COVID-19.

"There's no better feeling than beating North Andover, Thanksgiving or not," said senior captain Matt Rigazio, who made three tackles in the win. "Shutting them out was the icing on the cake. The rivalry is very personal to us.

"Though it wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving game with packed stands of parents, students, and past players, we kept the mindset that they couldn't play with us. We brought the same intensity we have been bringing all year and I'm very happy with the outcome. It will always put a smile on my face that we beat North Andover my senior year."

The win was the second straight for Andover over North Andover, after snapping a two-game Thanksgiving losing streak with a 41-8 holiday win in 2019. They now own a 4-2 edge in the rivalry since it was moved to the holiday.

"Even though it wasn't Thanksgiving morning, it was definitely special to get another shot at North Andover and beat them one more time," said lineman and captain Ben Entner, who had a tackle for loss on Thursday. "I look forward to this game every year and it means a lot to me that we were able to come out of it with such an impressive win. We've worked hard all year and it's really showing out there on the field."

While the MIAA's postseason realignment made Thanksgiving Day football a game played for pride — it doesn't count towards the standings — it remains a definitive experience for Massachusetts high school football players. Last Thursday was a consolation for missing out on Thanksgiving 2020.

"For us, the rivalry (with North Andover) is not about just the current team," said lineman and captain AJ Heidtke. "It's about everyone who has ever played at Andover High. The tradition of the game means a lot to everyone, and we always have alumni come especially to this game. Winning felt amazing and winning the last time I will every play against North Andover means even more."

Beating North Andover is also no small task. The Scarlet Knights advanced to the last three Division 2 North finals, winning the Division 2 state title in 2018. They beat state powers like Central Catholic during that stretch.

"It's always special being able to play North Andover even if it wasn't on Thanksgiving this season," said linebacker Tomas Loureiro, who made 10 tackles in last week's win. "Being able to come out and win big like we have the last two years now is a great feeling and something we're looking to do every time against this team. This rivalry is personal for us and it is one that we look forward to every year."

Andover coach EJ Perry especially enjoyed that the game ended up being moved up a day due to bad weather.

"It's great that it was on a Thursday, so it felt more like Thanksgiving," said Perry. "We always want to come out and play well against North Andover. A lot of guys stepped up. It feels so great to be playing football."

RIVALRY AT A GLANCE

Here's a look at the Andover/North Andover rivalry since they started playing on Thanksgiving Day.

Year Score Andover Highlight

2021 Andover 38, North Andover 0 Scotty Brown and Lincoln Beal each score two TDs

2019 Andover 41, North Andover 8 Josh Ramos scores three TDs, Scotty Brown adds two TDs

2018 North Andover 41, Andover 27 Nick Zalanskas catches three TDs

2017 North Andover 33, Andover 7 Brendan Moody scores lone Andover TD

2016 Andover 49, North Andover 20 EJ Perry IV throws seven TDs, three to Joe Rockwell.

2015 Andover 42, North Andover 41 Andover stops North Andover at goal line as time expires

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