Extra Points: Football part of Thanksgiving traditions
Whenever we host Thanksgiving dinner, there are two tables.
Adults sit in the main dining room while children eat at a smaller one in the kitchen. Age, career and social status don't matter. Our daughter, Ashley, is a teacher who will turn 40 in April, yet she will forever be at the kids' table. Same goes for our son, Kyle, who is 37-year-old attorney; and their cousins Charles, who is an almost-40 assistant superintendent; and Emily, 25, who is a pastry chef at a local restaurant.
Come Thursday afternoon, they dutifully - albeit with some good-natured protests - will encircle the folding table set up near the refrigerator and sit in their usual spots, alongside our three grandsons Hampton (6), Graham (4) and Nixon (1); and their cousins Charlie (6) and Piper (3).
It's a Thanksgiving tradition for us, just like using a slab of butter shaped like a turkey, saving the neck of the bird in honor of my late father, Stormin' Norman; and placing a bottle of Manischewitz of the side table like my late in-laws used to do.
For some local families, Thanksgiving also means high school football.
There are rivalries that have lasted for centuries. Millville and Vineland first played in 1864. A few weeks earlier, Abraham Lincoln was elected President. Pleasantville and Ocean City squared off for the first time in 1917, the same year the United States entered World War I. The Atlantic City-Holy Spirit game began in 1926. One year later, the electric television was invented.
Over the years, the scores have faded, but memories of special moments from the games are still talked about among former coaches, players and fans.
Ocean City and Pleasantville first met in 1917, with the Greyhounds earning a 106-7 win. The series moved to Thanksgiving for the first time in 1921, with Pleasantville winning 7-0.
In 1973, Pleasantville's Dino Hall threw the game-winning touchdown in a 14-7 win that earned the Greyhounds a share of the Cape-Atlantic League championship. A few years later, Hall went on to become a terrific kick returner and running back for the Cleveland Browns following a great career at Glassboro State, which is now Rowan University.
Frequently, there is an unsung hero. In 1975, Ocean City was forced to play Pleasantville without two of its best players. They were suspended for the game after sneaking into the school the night before to go swimming in the pool. Al Burch booted an extra point to give Ocean City a 7-6 victory that enabled the Red Raiders to clinch the Cape-Atlantic League championship.
There was a time when the Atlantic City-Holy Spirit game was a must-see event.
Although they now play on Thanksgiving morning, there was a 30-year period from the 1940s until 1975 when the Vikings and Spartans met on Thanksgiving Eve at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. The game routinely drew over 10,000 fans.
Everyone around Millville and Vineland still remembers the 1955 game.
The Thunderbolts entered with a 31-game winning streak that was a South Jersey record at the time. An estimated crowd of 12,000 filled the stands and stood against the fences at Millville's Wheaton Field. Hundreds more climbed onto roof tops of nearby houses and businesses to get a glimpse of the action.
Millville's booster club presented coach John Barbose with a new 1956 Oldsmobile at halftime.
Vineland pulled off a 27-6 upset to snap the streak. As the story goes, Barbose was so upset that he left the car at the field and didn't drive it home until three days later.
More memories will be made on Thursday.
Pleasantville will host Ocean City in the 101st edition of the game on Thursday at 10 a.m. Ocean City leads the alltime series 52-42-6. The Red Raiders have won two straight in the rivalry, but that streak could end this year.
The Greyhounds are one of this season's feel-good stories. First-year coach Malachi Timberlake and standouts such as Sami Miller and Marlon Leslie have led the team to a 6-3 record a year after going 0-10.
The winner will take home the Bob Slaveski-Bob Thomas Memorial Trophy.
Atlantic City and Holy Spirit will play for the 94th time Thursday at 10 a.m. at Holy Spirit's Ed Byrnes Memorial Stadium. The Vikings hold a 52-37-4 lead in the series, but the Spartans have won four in a row. This could be one of the more exciting games, considering both Atlantic City (7-2) and Holy Spirit (8-2) made the state playoffs. However, the architect of the Vikings' success, coach Keenan Wright, will not be on the sidelines after being suspended Monday, according to WPG Talk Radio.
Millville will be playing for a state championship on December 3, but first will take on Vineland at Vineland's Gittone Stadium. The Thunderbolts lead the series 47-46-10.
Sadly, other local Thanksgiving games have been discontinued, partially because of the NJSIAA's decision to start the regular season in mid-August and end it on Oct. 21. Unless teams qualified for the playoffs or opted to play in a consolation game, they were hanging up their helmets and shoulder pads before Halloween.
As a result, some programs had no choice but to eliminate Thanksgiving rivalry games. The Anchor Bowl - the annual showdown between Cape May County rivals Lower Cape May Regional and Middle Township - was played during that holiday for over a quarter century. The winner takes possession of a plaque that features an actual anchor taken from a boat that belonged to former Lower Cape May coach Bill Garrison.
This year's game - Middle rallied for an 18-12 victory on September 30 - wasn't part of Thanksgiving for the first time since 1995.
Thus ended a part of my Thanksgiving tradition. Instead of watching the Caper Tigers take on the Panthers, I'll be trekking out to the shed to retrieve a folding table for dinner.
Ashley and Kyle will never be too old for the kids' table.