For high school football teams heading to the Super Bowl, Thanksgiving creates a dilemma

Even though Marshfield was a rivalry game, he decided to seat his starters, knowing that Central would be the toughest opponent his team would face all season. Central was a monster of a program, playing one last season in Division 3 before making the jump to Division 1. He was averaging 47 points per game.

Duxbury’s Thanksgiving result was a lopsided 41-0 loss to Marshfield that left both sides dissatisfied. Cam Bowden, a senior from Marshfield at the time, said: “I was quite upset. I wanted to play starters against starters. It would have been a good game. »

Maimaron, knowing his choice had complicated ramifications, looked almost guilty.

“It’s a horrible position to make a decision like this,” Maimaron said at the time. “I feel bad for Marshfield.”

Strategically seated players didn’t pay. Duxbury played at Springfield Central nine days later and lost 38-13.

The debate over the merits of playing on Thanksgiving and then turning around and playing in a Super Bowl a week later has divided coaches and athletic directors across the state. A format change in 2013 saw the playoffs start weeks before Thanksgiving, making Thanksgiving games mostly an exhibition with only pride at stake.

All in all, there is no rhyme or reason for the results.

Of the 74 teams that have contested the Super Bowl since 2017, 46 have won on Thanksgiving, 19 have lost and nine have not played. Teams that won at Thanksgiving went 24-22 in the Super Bowls. Teams that lost at Thanksgiving went 9-10. Teams that didn’t play Thanksgiving went 4-5.

Of the 37 teams that lost the Super Bowl, five didn’t play on Thanksgiving, 10 lost on Thanksgiving, and 22 won on Thanksgiving.

Of the 37 winners, four didn’t play Thanksgiving, nine lost Thanksgiving, and 24 won.

Duxbury’s defeat was the second most lopsided defeat during this period.

In 2021, Hull opted to seat their starters on Thanksgiving against Cohasset even though the South Shore League’s Tobin Division title was on the line. Hull was eliminated, 42-0, then lost to Randolph, 20-14 , to the Super Bowl.

Cohasset, meanwhile, played his starters against Hull, won that game with ease, then beat Wahconah, 27-12, in their Super Bowl.

“It was not a decision for us,” Cohasset coach Pete Afanasiw said at the time. “We’ve been here before where we’re going to a Super Bowl and we’ve played our starters. What’s the point of playing Thanksgiving if you’re not playing? »

Tell that to Ashland’s trainer, Andrew Mackay. He won the National Federation of High School Associations Coach of the Year award in 2019 after leading the Clockers to a Super Bowl Division 6 title.

But he made a trade decision the week before the Super Bowl.

Ashland was 8-0 heading into its Thanksgiving game against Hopkinton. But preparing for a Super Bowl game against Bishop Fenwick a week later, Ashland only played his starters for the first quarter and took a 7-0 lead, then gave up 26 straight points on the way to a 26-7 loss.

But Ashland came out of the Thanksgiving game with a healthy team and needed it to claim a 28-22 victory over Fenwick in the Super Bowl.

In 2016, Millis’ coach Dana Olson was clear about his intentions.

Millis set a pre-season goal of winning a state championship. He had beaten rival Medway, 36-6, during the regular season and Olson saw no point in sending his starters to do the same thing again on Thanksgiving when the Super Bowl was on the horizon.

It was more than tradition. In 2009, Millis’ football program was on its deathbed, nearly cut as he faced the prospect of having just 16 players. Millis fielded a team with Hopedale on a one-year trial basis to save the program, and seven years later it was still a small team with just 34 players. But after panting, he was now on the cusp of a title.

Olson talked about it with his players. They agreed that Thanksgiving wasn’t as important as their ultimate goal. The following week, Millis knocked out Maynard, 30-18, in the Division 4A Super Bowl.

The following year, Olson played most of his players against Medway on Thanksgiving. They won, 17-0, then repeated as Super Bowl champions with a 37-0 victory over Hoosac Valley.

Julian Benbow can be reached at

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