By ALEX SPONSELLER The 2021 Beacon Bowl Thanksgiving football game will have a different feel this year, as the Johnston Panthers will be making the trip to Pilgrim to take on the defending champion Patriots this Thursday. The usual Toll Gate Titans were
By ALEX SPONSELLER
The 2021 Beacon Bowl Thanksgiving football game will have a different feel this year, as the Johnston Panthers will be making the trip to Pilgrim to take on the defending champion Patriots this Thursday.
The usual Toll Gate Titans were forced to withdraw from the event after dealing with roster issues earlier in the week. On Tuesday afternoon, Pilgrim and Johnston would come to an agreement to set up the date.
The Panthers have continued to practice since the end of their season in hopes of securing a chance to play on Thanksgiving.
“We didn’t think it would be Pilgrim but we were practicing anyway in hopes of this situation. We knew that if an opportunity came and we hadn’t been practicing we’d have to pass up the chance to play, so we’ve been keeping the kids together. There were other scenarios and situations with other teams so we just kept practicing,” said Johnston head coach Joe Acciardo. “Initially, (the players) were just happy to be playing at all. When we told them we had this opportunity they were excited. They weren’t sure who they’d be facing, but when they found out it was Pilgrim they were excited.”
Win or lose, Acciardo and the Panthers are simply happy to have one last game and to be part of the Turkey Day tradition.
“We want to go out and make sure the kids stay healthy and have fun. The pressure of a playoff game is different, we’re just glad to be able to go out there and play. No matter what happens, we’re lucky to have a game,” said Acciardo.
“We just need to prepare like we normally do. A lot has happened in the last few weeks, so we just need to get the energy up and play as well as we always do,” said Pilgrim senior Marcus Pascual of the last-minute change.
The two clubs each made the Division III Semifinals this year and Pilgrim took home a 14-0 win over the Panthers in the regular season. Johnston trailed by just seven points with less than three minutes to go in the loss.
“It’s nothing crazy, it helps that we have some background from when we played Johnston this year. It’s not like we have never seen them and don’t know who their players are. Our goal has always been to just be prepared to play a game. We knew that we were going to play no matter what,” said Pilgrim head coach Blake Simpson.
Pilgrim senior captain Danny Halliwell is looking forward to taking on the Panthers again, this time with a healthy signal caller in Connor Widmer.
“We’re going to have to change a lot of things up against Johnston but I’m just happy that we’re going to have the chance to play. It’s great because Connor is fully healthy which he wasn’t the last time we played these guys,” said Halliwell.
There will also be something else on the line this time … a brand-new Beacon Bowl trophy that was recently delivered to the Pats, who took home the 2019 game with a 42-0 win over the Titans.
“It definitely creates some bragging rights. We are looking forward to having something to take back to the school. Last year’s (cancellation) was a bit of a blessing in disguise because now we get to finish our high school careers with one last home game in front of our crowd. That’s nice,” said Widmer.
Although the game will now feature an out-of-town club, Simpson and the Pats are still willing to put their hardware on the line.
“We at least got to play (Toll Gate) earlier this year, but it does take away from it a little bit especially now having a new trophy. We’ll put it up for grabs though, and maybe Johnston will walk away with it,” said Simpson, who is also prepared to see some new looks from the Panthers. “The challenge with these final games is that coaches tend to put all their chips on the table. You never know what kind of trick play or new formation they are going to come out with. I’m just happy that these kids, especially the seniors, will get one last game.”
At the end of the day, the Pats are thrilled to have one last game together, especially the veterans.
“We’re pretty amped up. We’re expecting a game and we’re looking to play all four quarters. I expect a game, I expect for us to go out there and enjoy the last game of our high school careers,” said Brady Burke.
Halliwell added: “It’s great to have one last game with these guys, this team is my family and there is nowhere else I would rather be. We are ready to kick some butt. We want to play, we want to win,” Halliwell said.
Connor Widmer, Daniel Halliwell, Austin Kilduff , Brady Burke, Brandon Whitman, Marcus Pascual, Jacob Smith, Carter Clifton,Chace Roberts, Jayden Ames, Colin Burke, Lucas J Pirraglia, Josh Escamilla, Andrew Vicino, Jack Coffey, Lawrence Robinson, John Kelly, Alexander Pinheiro, Benjamin Halliwell, Zechariah DiMezza, Hunter Schobel, Dylan Rodrigues, Jacob Soulliere, Tristan Miller, Aiden Prum, Dylan Roberts, Elijah Germain, Kary Baptiste, Donovan Watts, Thomas Giddings, Jacob DeGrasse, Louis Gauthier, Aydan Amaral, Andreas Filippou, Matthew Santos, Nicholas Pirraglia, Isaac Iannone, Jason Tourgee Jr., Alex Earle, Brandon Wolfenden, Luke Corcoran, Kenneth Irizarry, Lucas Johnson, Joseph Nardolillo, Andrew O'Leary, Chris Maniatakos, Raymond Facente, Jeremiah Jones, Dan Harrison, Cole Bigelli, Amari Matthews, Rian Ogni, Alexander Filippou, Richard Cole
Jacob Spinella, Hunter Remington, Dylan Martins, Brandon Hall, Neari Vasquez, Aiden Lariviere, Matthew Clements, Joe Acciardo, Dean Paris, Jahaziel Rodriguez, Josh Galaes, Steven Finegan, Kyle D'Alessandro, Anthony Gawlik, Demetrius Roman, Anthony Abbruzzi,, Sebastian Aleman, David Pagliarini, Michael Carlino, Joe Forte, Jacob Abbruzzese, Fabricio Brun, Nathaniel Smith, Phil Costantini, Isaiah Letran, Noah Lavergne, Rudy Estrada, Ryan Schino, Josh Ramos, Malakai Quinones, Gabriel Daya, Matthew Prouix, Donovan Quinones , Dean Frattone, Logan Horne, Alex Fedorchuk, Landon Faucher, Gerson Cabrera, Anthony Guzman
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