It’s official: The longest-running football battle in Connecticut is in fact the oldest in the country.
As reported by the Norwich Bulletin, the annual rivalry game between New London (Conn.) High School and Norwich (Conn.) Free Academy (NFA) has been officially declared the oldest high school football rivalry in the nation by the National Football League.
The famed rivalry, now played on Thanksgiving Day, was first contested on May 12, 1875. While extensive records aren’t known, it’s believed that NFA has won roughly 75 times while New London’s win total hovers around 60. Eleven recorded games have ended in a tie.
Still, the significance of the Connecticut game being officially recognized as the nation’s oldest is sure to spark angst among some of the other contests which claim to be the nation’s most senior competitions, particularly those a state to the north in Massachusetts. The Phillips Academy Andover (Mass.)-Phillips Exeter (N.H.) Academy game started just three years after NFA-New London, and while it spans two states, is still the nation’s longest running prep football game.
Among public schools in Massachusetts, the annual Thanksgiving rivalry between Wellesley (Mass.) High School and Needham (Mass.) High School is the nation’s third oldest, dating to 1882.
Now that the NFL has weighed in, any of the residual claims by Wellesley and Needham backers, or their counterparts among alums of one of the Phillips schools, can be put aside, or at least relegated to a battle for second most lengthy and significant rivalry.