This season the MVC saw plenty of success across the board, with three teams reaching their respective state semifinals. Now, the focus shifts to the Thanksgiving rivalries!
When it comes to Massachusetts High School football, there is nothing like the Thanksgiving morning games. I coached for a few seasons in Tucson, AZ, and I blew everyone’s mind when I talked about games on that day. It’s a unique tradition we have here. It’s a tradition that many hope never goes away.
While opponents may change at times due to unforseen reasons, the rivalries are strong across the state. This Thursday, all 11 MVC teams will be in action, and to all of them, this is the one that really matters.
For many seniors, this is the very last time that they will lace up their cleats, don their shoulder pads, and represent theur home town in a football game. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but one that is faced year after year. For the Thanksgiving day victors, the memories last a lifetime and their legendary play grows in it’s lore year after year.
Here’s a look at all of the games in the Merrimack Valley Conference this year.
Andover at North Andover
Both of these teams have a lot to be proud of in 2019.
The Golden Warriors made a great run in the Division 1 North tournament, eventually losing to Super Bowl-bound St. John’s Prep. The next week though, they came back and beat one of the toughest squads in the state, the Everett Crimson Tide.
Led by freshman quarterback Scotty Brown, along with superstar running back Josh Ramos, Andover will look to finish strong with a win over their bitter rival to the north. Head Coach EJ Perry is in contention for the MVC Sports Today Coach of the Year Award for what he has done with his team, and he will certainly have them ready to roll on Thursday morning.
North Andover will play this game after falling to Lincoln-Sudbury in the Division 2 North Final. They were so close to playing for back-to-back Super Bowl titles, but a Thanksgiving Day victory would help the seniors usher in the next chapter of their lives. Stud RB Freddy Gabin should lead the way for the Scarlet Knights in this one, as he came on very strong to end the year. Jack Roche will be a problem for Andover on both sides of the line all day long, and Mike Difo will have his say in that as well.
Prediction: Andover 28 – North Andover 17
Chelmsford at Billerica
In what will be the last game played at Marshall Middle School, the hometown Indians will look to derail an up and coming Chelmsford Lions squad.
Billerica stumbled out of the blocks a bit to start the 2019 season, but they have since figured a lot of things out. QB Nolan Houlihan needs just 89 yards this week to go over 2,000 on the season. Surprisingly, his numbers are even better than they were last season when he was a 1st Team All-MVC selection.
Houlihan isn’t at this thing alone though, as Brian Hamilton in the backfield and receiver Colby Cyrus have stepped up big time. Defensively, Ryan Hogan has been one of the best lineman in the league this season, and he will likely give Chelmsford QB Brett Baker a few scares.
The Lions, who are clearly in the midst of a rebuild and culture change under new head coach George Peterson, won’t shy away from a challenge. This year, they nearly upset North Andover as Baker came up just short on a 2-pt conversion to end the game. This team can compete, with players like Jake Chiason and Shane Sutherland making big plays defensively.
Prediction: Billerica 37 – Chelmsford 19
Methuen at Dracut
The Dracut Middies began the season on a hot streak, but injuries ultimately derailed them. They may be back on track though with the play of quarterback, running back and linebacker Lucas Ibarguen. No matter where he lines up on the field, he will make plays. He’s truly a star on the gridiron.
Methuen dealt with their share of injuries as well, including QB Connor Bryant. He’s back in the mix now though, and his play could be the difference in this Thanksgiving Day clash. Bryant will likely utilize a lot of Zach Bergeron and Kareem Coleman on Thursday morning, and the offense may have an absolutely explosive day.
Prediction: Methuen 28 – Dracut 19
Central Catholic at Lawrence
Central Catholic was an absolute force this season, until it met St. John’s Prep. QB Ayden Pereira was pulled from the Division 1 North final, and it is not clear whether or not he will be the signal caller on Thursday. Either way, it’s tough to imagine ther Raiders offense not getting back on track. They have been one of the best on both sides of the ball all year long, and they badly want to get back into the win column. Senior leaders like Nick Donatio will have this Central Catholic team ready to roll.
Lawrence on the other hand, had an overall tough year. They do have playmakers though, like QB Jacob Tamayo and WR Manny Lara. That duo may be the best shot for the Lancers to find the endzone this Thanksgiving at home.
Prediction: Central Catholic 42 – Lawrence 6
Wilmington at Tewksbury
The final game at Doucette Field in Tewksbury will take place on Thanksgiving morning.
There will be plenty to celebrate on this occasion, including a team coming off an appearance in the Division 3 State Semifinal. Led by jumior QB Ryne Rametta, this version of coach Brian Aylward’s Redmen had a phenomenal season. Despite an unusual loss to Methuen, Tewksbury has been nearly unstoppable. The play of guys like Kyle Darrigo, Dan Fleming and Tyler Keough in the absence of star Shane Aylward was a huge difference maker. Better yet, the Redmen may just have the best offensive line in the conference.
Prediction: Tewksbury 34 – Wilmington 17
Lowell at Haverhill
The best tackler in the MVC? That would be Lowell linebacker Keven Yrrizarry. He is a FORCE on both sides of the ball, and will likely come up with a big play or two when the Red Raiders need it most.
If a big play is needed in the return game, Lowell has an answer for that call too in Aaron Morris. He has burst onto the MVC scene this season with some stellar play and is here to stay.
Of course, UNH-bound star Brendan Tighe will also be a star in his final high school game.
Haverhill will look to Brady Skafas as the conductor. The QB will aim to bring the Hillies to the top of the mountain to end their 2019 campaign. He will get some help from Jabari Baptiste in the backfield and from Teyshon McGee on the outside.