School officials sack Thanksgiving Day football game

May 16, 2018 by

Game moved to Wednesday night

Published in the May 16, 2018 edition

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — It’s the end of an era.

For the past 59 years, the annual Thanksgiving Day game between the Lynnfield Pioneers and North Reading Hornets has been one of the hottest tickets in the two towns. Students, alumni and residents have enjoyed kicking off the Thanksgiving Day holiday with some good old fashioned football.

In a surprising turn of events, Lynnfield school officials decided to move the annual Thanksgiving Day tilt to Wednesday, Nov. 21, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Pioneer Stadium. It is Lynnfield’s turn to host the event in 2018.

The Lynnfield School Department administered a survey last November asking parents and students for their opinions about how frequently they attend the Thanksgiving Day football games when they are played in Lynnfield. The survey also asked parents and students if they would be open to moving the game to Wednesday night.

“We are looking into the possibility of moving our future Thanksgiving Day game to a Wednesday night game in order to allow for the holiday to be a little less hectic and more conducive to family time,” reads the survey message sent to parents.

Superintendent Jane Tremblay explained the School Department’s reasoning for the decision in a phone interview with the Villager.

“We sent out a survey last year to parents and students, and we got 761 responses,” said Tremblay. “Based on the results of the survey, we will hold the Thanksgiving Day game at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. We will survey the community after the game in order to make decisions about future games.”

In an email sent to parents on Tuesday afternoon, Tremblay said the survey will be re-administered to parents. The survey will close May 31.

“We will make a final decision after we analyze the results,” she wrote.

Chris Simpson, who is the father of incoming Pioneer football captain Jaret Simpson, expressed his disappointed with the decision of Lynnfield school officials.

“This is a tradition,” said Simpson in a phone interview with the Villager. “For 59 years, Lynnfield has played North Reading on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving football is a tradition in Massachusetts, and I think the Lynnfield football community is very upset with this decision. I think the administration is trying to sweep this under the rug before the fall when it will be too late to change the schedule.”

Kerrianne Allain, the mother of incoming Pioneer football captain Hunter Allain, echoed Simpson’s sentiment in a post on the Lynnfield Community Group Facebook page.

“(The) Thanksgiving game should be played on Thanksgiving Day,” Allain wrote. “No discussion needed. This has been our family tradition for years. Our son, a senior, has played since third grade and has looked forward to playing his senior year high school football game on Thanksgiving Day. We also have a cheerleader. This is what our family looks forward to every Thanksgiving morning, and we need to keep this tradition going.”

North Reading reacts

North Reading Superintendent Jon Bernard weighed in on Lynnfield’s decision to move the date of next fall’s turkey tilt.

“In my opinion, it’s Lynnfield’s decision,” said Bernard in a phone interview with the Villager. “I don’t foresee any changes to the Thanksgiving Day game when North Reading is the host community. I respect their ability to make their decision, but I like the morning tradition and that’s the opinion of the community at large.”

North Reading School Committee Chairman Mel Webster posted the following letter sent to Tremblay on the North Reading Community Connection Facebook page Monday night:

“As a longtime member of the North Reading School Committee, and the current chair, I cannot tell you how disappointed I am after hearing today that you have decided to move the Thanksgiving game next year between Lynnfield and North Reading to Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.,” Webster wrote.

“I can also say that a good number of North Reading residents who have been informed of this situation are equally outraged. In addition, I have seen reactions from several Lynnfield residents who are unhappy with this change. For 59 years, North Reading and Lynnfield have renewed their annual football rivalry on Thanksgiving morning, yet for some reason, you have decided to take this tradition away from the teams, alumni, students and parents. I and many other North Reading residents are simply dumbfounded by this decision and hope that you, Lynnfield’s athletic director and others involved rethink it and move the game back to the date it belongs – Thanksgiving morning,” Webster stated.

Webster added in a post on the North Reading Community Connection: “I almost wish we could find a new school to play on Thanksgiving morning and start a new rivalry due to this lack of respect shown by Lynnfield.”

In the wake of Webster publicly announcing this decision by Lynnfield school officials, a number of North Reading parents stated in the online posts that they were infuriated by the decision.

“As a mother of a senior player, I could not be more frustrated about this,” wrote Lisa Notar. “I cannot imagine that the senior parents of Lynnfield want this either.”

Lisa Currier agreed.

“This is so upsetting that anyone would want to take that tradition away from the kids,” wrote Currier. “They look forward to it every year. I find it hard to believe that parents want it that way. Let’s all stand together and keep the Thanksgiving tradition the way it should be: On Thanksgiving.”

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