For the most part, it’s been a season to forget for the Wilmington football team. But on Thanksgiving Day, all of that could change.
Tewksbury visits Alumni Stadium at 10 a.m. on Thursday for the annual Turkey Day game between the bitter rivals that have been squaring off for more than 80 years.
“Our record is not where we want it to be, but they’re trying to go out on a good note,” said Wilmington head coach Mike Barry, whose team struggled to a 2-8 record on the year. “Because of the struggles we’ve had, the game means a little bit more this year.”
The Redmen, meanwhile, enter the game tuning up for a postseason appearance. Tewksbury managed a 6-4 overall record while polishing off a 5-0 mark in the Merrimack Valley League, taking the conference title.
Similarly to last year, the Redmen will take on Wilmington on Thanksgiving before traveling to face Reading in the Division 2 semifinal.
Barry said that while he and his Wildcat players are friendly with their rivals off the field, when it comes time for Turkey Day, things change.
“The ‘can’t stand you’ kind of attitude happens during the game,” said Barry. “We’re always talking and friendly, but then you start thinking ‘Hey you got us last year, we want to kick your butt this year.’ That adds a little flair and flavor to it. We have clear lines that are drawn once the ball is kicked off.”
The annual game features the largest crowd that the Wilmington football team sees all year. Barry said he expects several thousand fans in attendance, creating an electric atmosphere.
“That’s one factor that makes this game so great,” said Barry.
Wilmington’s mentor said home field advantage is beneficial because it makes the early morning routine of the game easier not having to travel out of town to prepare for the game.
Barry also added that the result of the game shapes how much he enjoys his Thanksgiving Day.
“For me, if we win I go home and all I want to do is talk about the game. My relatives only want to hear so much about it,” said Barry. “But if we lose, I have a lot of short answers during dinner. In a lot of ways, the game is the highlight of the day for me.”