The Bishop Fenwick football program turned back the clock to find a Thanksgiving rival that might last a long time into the future.
Starting next fall, the Crusaders will meet Catholic Central League foe St. Mary’s on the holiday, renewing a Thanksgiving rivalry that lasted 28 years from 1964 to 1991.
“We’ve been bouncing around for a long time on Thanksgiving. We finally settled in with Austin Prep, then the playoff system moved our league games back,” Fenwick coach and Athletic Director Dave Woods said.
“At our league meeting we talked with Austin Prep about getting back with them because their game with Lowell Catholic might have been up. We found out Lynn Tech might not be playing St. Mary’s again and I had talked with both Jeff (Newhall, St. Mary’s AD) and Matt (Durgin, football coach) about it. It’s great for both schools. We’re natural rivals and it always was the Thanksgiving game back in the day. It fell into place and the timing was right for both of us.”
Fenwick holds a 23-12-1 lead in the all-time series with an 18-9-1 record on Thanksgiving.
Since the series with St. Mary’s was suspended in 1991, Fenwick has played Austin Prep (1992-95 and 2006-12), Malden Catholic (2000-05), Bellingham (1996), Ayer (1997), Whittier Tech (1998-99), and most recently Pingree (2013-14) on Thanksgiving.
Catholic Central League teams Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Williams went back to playing on Thanksgiving this year a year after the playoff system was put into place. That helped open the door for Fenwick and St. Mary’s to set up this holiday meeting.
This season the two automatic bids from the CCL were determined by the MIAA power ranking system. Details will be worked out how the automatic qualifiers will be decided next year, but Woods said it’s possible the league championship will already be decided by the end of the seventh week of the season.
It’s possible the top two teams in the standings will earn the automatic bids once the seven-week regular season has concluded.
“This past year we didn’t use the first and second-place teams as automatic qualifiers. Arlington Catholic was in second and they didn’t get to go to the playoffs,” Woods said. “We’re waiting to hear back from the MIAA, but we’re hoping we get to use the league champ and the second place team if we can determine that.”
Next year’s matchup will be played the night before Thanksgiving at Lynn’s Manning Field.
Woods said it’s possible that Fenwick will also host the game the night before Thanksgiving in 2016.
Fenwick and St. Mary’s have been two of the best teams in their division that past few years. Fenwick is the two-time defending champs in the CCL and in Division 5 North. Three years ago, St. Mary’s defeated Fenwick 14-12 in a very tight battle, and the Spartans went on to win the league.
Woods said the possibility of meeting St. Mary’s twice in a short time span because of the playoff system isn’t anything to be concerned about.
“I think we definitely wanted to avoid playing three times, but if it’s the playoffs that’s a great atmosphere and then if it’s Thanksgiving, it’s Thanksgiving,” Woods said. “One team could be going on or both won’t be, but it will be somebody’s last game. Any time we play St. Mary’s in anything the record or time of year is all thrown out. It’s fun playing your rival.”