Pass the possibilities, it’s time to revamp Thanksgiving foosball



The short answer to our internal poll is Wilton and Ridgefield. They should be playing soccer on Thanksgiving.

“I’m 100% for it,” Wilton football coach EJ DiNunzio said.

Yet before anyone decides who a particular school should play on the fourth Thursday in November – or one of the two nights before – the question that really needs to be answered is who shouldn’t play.

Luckily, thankfully, Shelton and Derby have indefinitely canceled a Thanksgiving series that dates back to 1905. What was once a great rivalry has turned into a series of one-sided routs. Seventeen successive Ls for the Derby without indication, 17 more in a row were not on the horizon.

This is not a slam in Derby, its athletes, its footballing history, nor the pride of the city. The weather is changing. Communities change. Derby became the smallest independent football school in Connecticut. Shelton is an LL class playoff program. After COVID canceled Thanksgiving 2020, Derby lost its last five games of 2021 due to decimated numbers.

It’s time for Derby to rebuild itself, even if that means getting cooperative or going back to junior college, playing similar programs, making their youth league soak in, and if all goes well, maybe play Shelton someday in the future. For those who argue the series shouldn’t be stopped, may we suggest spicing up your holiday cranberry sauce with a Wild Turkey reality shot.

This piece started a few weeks ago as a survey of our GameTimeCT staff on which game they most want to see on the Thanksgiving program and which game they want to stop. Wilton-Ridgefield won. At the other end of the spectrum, our poll became reality this week.

Here is the thing. Shelton-Derby’s cancellation points to an opportunity. With the implementation of six CIAC divisions in 2022, the expansion of the playoffs to 48 teams, and the growing strength of the Scheduling Alliance, it’s a great time for schools across the state to re-evaluate their Game of the Week. of Thanksgiving.

After considerable debate in recent years about how other states work, it has become clear that the Thanksgiving Games will go nowhere for the foreseeable future. About 90 percent of CIAC athletic directors and coaches supported the six-division formula that keeps the post-Thanksgiving playoff system in three rounds.

Thanksgiving games remain.

So who should play? And who shouldn’t? What can never be changed? What is going well now, but could be as good or better in the future while helping other schools to match?

SCC Commissioner Al Carbone said he had focused over the past decade on programming competitive football matches, from the 50-point rule to the conference-level system, but the clashes of Thanksgiving always seemed to be out of the field. I couldn’t talk about it. Is it a competitive game? Is this a game you can play another week in the season?

Derby-Shelton could be the catalyst to pass the sauce on Thanksgiving.

It took Carbone less than an hour on Monday after the Shelton-Derby announcement to tweet that Shelton will play Xavier Thanksgiving in week 2022. The other CSC Level I teams both needed a game this week- the ? So. Still, Carbone doesn’t want people to read it as something etched forever. In fact, it is the opposite.

“The last few years we’ve started having conversations with people in the league, ADs and coaches, saying we have to watch our Thanksgiving games,” Carbone said. “Are we helping our teams qualify for the playoffs and play competitive games? It has been a discussion and a difficult one.

“Thanksgiving is the hardest thing about programming football because it’s always locked. Is it uncomfortable for every DA in every community? Yes. I understand that politics is always local. But we started the conversation that we are trying to help them and simultaneously help our league. It’s a conversation that will continue to evolve.

Thanksgiving football is personal to those who love it and even more personal to those who have played and coached it. I swear they’ll have to wear Ansonia’s coach Tom Brockett on his shield before he gives up on Thanksgiving games.

Yet even the most ardent supporters are divided into two camps.

Some love Thanksgiving football for its tradition.

Some love Thanksgiving football for the tradition and the rivalry.

This is an important distinction in deciding which games can be modified.

College kids come home, families go to games, hot drinks on a cold morning, great football and a feast to follow. For some, this is more than enough. Opponents are negotiable.

For Darien, however, it must be New Canaan. For New Canaan, it must be Darien. For the story, it must be Stonington-Westerly and New London-NFA.

A few places like the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving. In fact, Carbon said, there have been discussions about it for Shelton-Xavier. It would certainly be a flagship game that night.

A growing number prefer Wednesday evenings. Some want to avoid overtime charges while on vacation. Inevitably, this all weighs against the biggest gate of the year that can help fuel a sports department.

An important thing to consider, too, is that with more teams qualifying for the playoffs, that means Thanksgiving will have more play-in-type results than ever before.

Still, it starts with schools that shouldn’t be playing Thanksgiving or that are flexible. This presents a pool of possibilities. Hand, a perennial L power, is 42-5-1 against Guilford. Time to change.

Wilton and Ridgefield, who began performing in 1959, performed on Thanksgiving 1999-2004. In 2005 Wilton started playing Trinity Catholic and Ridgefield started playing Danbury. With the CAFIG schedule, it’s been years that Wilton and Ridgefield haven’t played. Trinity Catholic has gone bankrupt. All Wilton has at Thanksgiving now is a choice between pumpkin and apple pie.

“I spoke to (former coaches) Tim Eagen and Bruce Cunningham and Ridgefield is one of the oldest and best rivalries, but they lost it,” said DiNunzio. “If we weren’t going to have Thanksgiving football, that’s one thing. If it stays, why not have the real good rivalries out there? It’s natural for us.

There are even a controversial story or two. As part of a 2016 scavenger hunt, a Ridgefield student agreed to dare to urinate on the Wilton football field. Wilton students were there. There was a huge fight. Not good, but it could pave the way for the No. 1 Bowl awarded to the winner.

In his freshman year, DiNunzio said that at the end of a tough game a Ridgefield player intercepted a pass.

“There was kind of a blind block that my kid never saw,” DiNunzio said. “Ridgefield was excited about the choice and with the game over they are celebrating. During this time, my child is face down on the ground. He got a little heated. I told Kevin (Callahan). Let’s not let the teams shake hands. My guys are too pissed off. He understood.”


“Some of these kids are really good friends,” said DiNunzio. “Game day, battle for bragging rights. Adjacent towns. This is very fun. Very good games in recent years. The crowds are large. We would love them on Thanksgiving.

This would mean that Danbury must find a game. Hence the need for a good open discussion within and between conferences. Five CTC teams have committed to one or two Alliance games in 2022, Carbone said. A few Pequot schools were interested but voted as a league to wait for now. Ditto for NVL, with the uncertainty of Derby and the expected addition of Gilbert. We see the momentum. We also see the need for diplomacy.

“The other day there was a reaction (on social media) that Shelton should face all of these other teams at Thanksgiving,” Carbone said. “As a commissioner I have to watch the whole league and talk to everyone. (Shelton) is already going to play at Fairfield Prep and Cheshire and wanted to have the discussion that Shelton is coming (for Thanksgiving). I want everyone to be ready – maybe not for next year – but maybe the next year to consider changing our Thanksgiving games. Sometimes you don’t want to rip off the bandage. You want to be willing to have a conversation. I can not wait to see him.

Hand against Xavier? Juicy.

Fairfield Prep vs. Xavier? Juicy.

I have long been a fan of games in the city. So Middletown-Xavier? Notre Dame-WH vs. West Haven? Having said that, split up St. Joe’s vs Trumbull and have St. Joe’s vs Prep? Wow.

Shelton versus preparation? Shelton vs. West Haven? Shelton vs. Trumbull?

Hand against North Haven or West Haven?

Cheshire vs. North Haven or Shelton?

Besides the loser, who wouldn’t have fun with Bloomfield-Windsor?

We could debate all night.

And now is the time to do it.

[email protected]; @ jeffjacobs123

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