Thanksgiving Football Continues

by Marc Narducci | Nov 27, 2023
Thanksgiving Football Continues
Due to the expanded playoffs in New Jersey, Thanksgiving football continues to become a dying breed, but this year there were 12 games either played the day before Thanksgiving or on the holiday.

This year on the night before Thanksgiving, there were two games involving teams from the seven-county South Jersey area:

Bordentown at New Egypt (26-0)

Gateway at Woodbury (13-40)

On Thanksgiving, here were the games:

 
Gloucester at Gloucester Catholic (33-0)
                                     
Seneca at Cherokee (13-6)
              
Camden Catholic at Paul VI (0-55)
 
Florence at Riverside (24-16)
 
Atlantic City at Holy Spirit (26-37)
 
Haddon Heights at Haddonfield (7-31)
 
Clayton at Pitman (13-29)
 
Haddon Township at Audubon (12-42)
  Millville at Vineland (65-0)   Camden at Camden Eastside (20-8) 

At least one of these rivalries, Gateway-Woodbury, won’t be playing on Thanksgiving in the future. Both schools announced this year was the last that they will compete on the holiday. 

The playoff system has so much to do with Thanksgiving being de-emphasized. 

It used to be that there were just a maximum of three NJSIAA playoff games for teams, as public schools only played for a sectional title.

Then a fourth game was added a few years ago, called a regional championship. In 2022, the NJSIAA adopted a public school state championship. 

That means if a team wins a state title, it has to play five playoff games. 

That playoff system is a major reason why Gateway-Woodbury is giving up Thanksgiving. 

This year Woodbury was in the Group 1 playoffs, before being eliminated on Nov. 10 with a 21-14 loss to Woodstown in the South Jersey Group 1 championship. 

Gateway, which wasn’t a playoff team, had been idle since Oct. 26, which made the Gators idle for 26 days. 

That type of situation is what is doing away with Thanksgiving.

What is interesting is that teams often have their best home crowd of the season on Thanksgiving. For instance, this year Millville had a capacity crowd for its home Thanksgiving game with Vineland.

This is one of the Thanksgiving rivalries that should continue to thrive. It is the oldest Thanksgiving rivalry in New Jersey, having started in 1893 and remains a big deal to both communities.

That is what it takes to keep Thanksgiving football alive. 

This season some prestige was added to the Haddonfield-Haddon Heights Thanksgiving game, which was broadcast by WIP radio. 

Haddonfield-Haddon Heights is a series with plenty of tradition, with the first game played in 1902. 

So besides all the seniors on both teams who played their final game, they will always have the audio keepsake, adding to the memory.

For the teams that keep playing on Thanksgiving, they understand what great tradition these emotional games provide. 

While the expanded playoffs have been good for football, there is still room for both. Plenty of room.

Photo: Millville's Na'eem Sharp

 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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