Local residents reflect on absence of Thanksgiving football

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ATHOL, Mass. (WWLP) – A lot of annual Thanksgiving traditions will not be taking place this year due to COVID-19 and local Thanksgiving football games are one of them.

Big plays are some of the many sights and sounds western Massachusetts residents wake up to every Thanksgiving morning at high school football games.

For many.. the early morning games serve as the appetizer for the big meal. Our plates will still be full with a feast but the fields will be empty.

Due to COVID-19, all western Massachusetts high school football fall seasons have been canceled and that includes the annual Turkey day game.

Western Massachusetts has some longstanding Thanksgiving rivalries that include matchups like Athol and Mahar who have been playing for more than 100 years.

22News spoke with Athol head coach Bill Larose who said he joked with opposing head coach Jim Woodward about a fake simulation earlier in the season.

“I said you mind if I just come to your sideline you stand at one end and I’ll stand at the other side and we’ll scream at each other and pretend like there’s a game going on and we had a good chuckle,” said Larose.

Larose added there are Laughs and memories that go beyond the gridiron

“It’s friendship, it’s tradition there’s a lot of things it isn’t just a game that morning. They may not have seen someone in 30 years and they come to the game to see that person and mix and mingle and catch up with someone they haven’t seen in ages,” added Larose.

Not being able to take the field on Thanksgiving is tough for any high school football player in Massachusetts but it may be even tougher for the seniors since, for them, this would’ve been one of the final times playing in front of their friends and family.

West Springfield senior Aidan Landers said the school year hasn’t been the same without football.

“I wish I could be playing really badly. We don’t have much going on right now so being able to play would be a big deal and football is my favorite sport so I wish we could go out there and play,” said Landers.

As of now Aidan and many other players and coaches have a chance at a potential Fall II football season that would start in late February. Safe to say teams across the state can’t wait for their next kickoff.

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