Fierce rivals are not supposed to come to friendly detentes on the football field, but that’s precisely what has unfolded in Massachusetts’ Metrowest region outside of Boston.
Just hours away from the latest installation of the heated Thanksgiving Day rivalry between Nipmuc Regional High School (Upton, Mass.) and Blackstone Valley Tech (Upton, Mass.) the crosstown rivals agreed to cancel their game, issuing a statement that essentially boiled down to this: The teams feared playing the game Thursday would jeopardize their chances at a state title a week from Saturday.
Here’s part of the statement released by Nipmuc athletic director Christopher Schmidt and co-signed by Valley Tech athletic director Michele Denise (you can read the entire thing via the link in the tweet above):
After careful consideration by administration, both schools elected to forego this year’s Thanksgiving game. This difficult decision was based on a shared concern for the safety of our student-athletes and fans based on the following factors:
- Conditions of the playing fields are unacceptable (Nipmuc’s field is ice over mud and BVT’s field is frozen solid and rock hard.)
- Extreme cold is forecasted for gametime on Thursday. Gametime temperature is forecast for 15 degrees with a wind chill around 0 degrees.
- Both teams share concern for the potential toll a game in these conditions would take on two teams who will be playing for a State Championship on December 1st.
Fair enough. With temperatures likely to hover in the teens and a windchill factor slightly above zero, there’s little doubt that playing on what is apparently a literally frozen field would pose significant risk to the players themselves. That’s to say nothing of the fans who would have been braving the elements to sit there and freeze in the stands.
Still, by canceling the game Nipmuc and Valley Tech are essentially telling their fans that claiming a state title is more important than one of — if not THE — most cherished football traditions for both schools. Players for both teams focus on the Thanksgiving rivalry game regardless of record, and seniors are now being forced to cash in their chips for one last run out against the team from the other side of Pleasant Street in favor of … being a bit more healthy for a game played in Gillette Stadium.
That’s what it boils down to, and it begs the question of what the players truly feel about the jointly bargained cancelation. Given the ferocious backlash to an announced schedule change to the annual game between Braintree and Milton — which then inspired an about face back to Turkey Day — it seems highly unlikely all the Warriors and Beavers are taking the sudden disappearance of their rivalry game in stride.