Thanksgiving matchups gave lots to chew on

Posted 11/29/23

We had three Thanksgiving football games this past week at Beacon Communications and there were three distinct storylines in each of them. Of course, no two or three games are identical in terms of …

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Thanksgiving matchups gave lots to chew on


We had three Thanksgiving football games this past week at Beacon Communications and there were three distinct storylines in each of them. Of course, no two or three games are identical in terms of background, but these three Turkey Day matchups all had big picture stories that gave us a lot to chew on moving forward (pun intended).

For Cranston, the Bolts nearly completed the comeback win to pull off the upset, but the Falcons would make the plays necessary deep in the fourth quarter to hold on to the series lead.

Heading into this game, I figured it would be a competitive win for the Falcons, but this was even closer than I imagined.

What this game shows us is that we are in for a rivalry that will be a blast to watch for the next few seasons. Neither team made the playoffs this fall as they rebuild their programs, but there is so much young talent across these teams that the next few meetings should be just as close and just as exciting.

Armand Northup-Reed put on a show for East and was the team’s best playmaker all season long. As a freshman, his production was impressive and he saved his best for last on Thanksgiving. We’re looking at a potential All-Division player as a freshman, and a kid who will certainly be just that by the time he’s a senior.

For the Falcons, Anthony Salas was fantastic in this one and paced the team on the ground. He is a junior, as is quarterback Kelan Cornell. Having that duo return next season will be fantastic theater.

On Thanksgiving, anything can happen, but you hope for close games between communities that are passionate about a good old fashioned rivalry. That’s exactly what we got with the Cranston matchup, and I believe this will blossom into the state’s best rivalry the next few seasons. West now leads 26-24 in the series, which shows how tightly contested is usually is.

For the Pilgrim versus Toll Gate matchup, it was the total opposite as the Pats rolled to another blowout win, this time by a score of 32-0. The Pats were the heavy favorite heading into the contest, but I was a little surprised at how big the gap was when it was all said and done.

Sure, Toll Gate held Pilgrim scoreless in two quarters, but the second quarter was disastrous and the fourth was not much better. Credit to Pilgrim for putting on a show in the fall finale, but I do believe that we may have to rethink the matchup moving forward if things do not improve.

I do believe they will improve, Toll Gate took a step forward this season and has a nice young crop of kids returning. I am not jumping ship just yet.

However, if the Titans have another tough season and Pilgrim continues to compete well in the same division, we may have to make a hard decision, even if it is just taking it one year at a time.

The Toll Gate players and coaches wanted this game and will never say no to it. I respect that, for sure. By the end of it, though, you could see some discouragement from the Titans which was unfortunate considering the holiday exhibition is supposed to be about having fun with friends and family. Not to mention that things got pretty physical early and often with a few kids getting banged up.

I don’t want to treat this situation as a negative. Pilgrim made some big plays and earned another win. The players in the black and white had a blast, as they should have. They put on a clinic in one of the biggest days of the year.

In 2022, Pilgrim lead by just one score heading into the fourth quarter, so again, I am not saying that it his time to hit the eject button. It just may be time to start considering alternatives if we get another lopsided defeat like this one.

Lastly was the inaugural Johnston-Scituate matchup on Wednesday night. The Panthers cruised to the win and are hoping that this will be the town’s latest tradition moving forward.

Johnston has played on Thanksgiving in the past, most recently when it traveled to Pilgrim in 2021 as a last-minute replacement and got the win. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they weren’t so lucky last year as they spent the day at home.

Although I was and still am a little skeptical of the matchup, I was happy to see the Johnston kids get to experience Thanksgiving and to get the win. Their playoff exit to Middletown was a heartbreaker, so it is good to see them get a chance at redemption prior to the seniors graduating.

Matt Clements was strong under center once again while the usual suspects like Michael Carlino and Steven Finegan got theirs. Mikey Messina and Dylan Guernon also had big days, which is what Thanksgiving football is all about … getting everyone involved.

The reason why I am skeptical, though, is because Scituate was one of the bottom teams in Division IV while the Panthers were one of the top teams in Division III. Similar to Toll Gate, the Spartans obliged, so you can’t treat them like victims. But, we will see how competitive these teams will be moving forward and if Scituate would be game for taking another big loss. The final was 33-14, so not quite the thumping that Warwick was, but the Panthers were in control from start to finish.

I am also torn on the teams playing the Wednesday night before the big day. On the one hand, it is a cool appetizer (pun intended again), but there is something about suiting up the morning of that just can’t be replicated. Either way, I was glad to see Johnston get their game and hopefully celebrate the start of something great.

Congrats to all of our football teams on a wonderful fall.

pitch, Thanksgiving, matchup


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