Football reflects on the inability to play in traditional Thanksgiving day game

As senior captain Shane DeRubeis reflects on the ability to play in last years Thanksgiving day game, he keeps his head high and spirits higher for the upcoming football season. This year, the annual Thanksgiving football game against Weston was cancelled due to the football season being pushed to February.

Credit: Courtesy of Shane DeRubeis

As senior captain Shane DeRubeis reflects on the ability to play in last years Thanksgiving day game, he keeps his head high and spirits higher for the upcoming football season. This year, the annual Thanksgiving football game against Weston was cancelled due to the football season being pushed to February. “Our coaches explain to us that these next months will be like our summer training and we will have competition throughout the weight room,” DeRubeis said. “This preseason is something all of us are looking forward to.”

For the past couple of months, athletes everywhere have experienced the loss of normal aspects of their athletic careers. Seasons are anything but normal, and the new guidelines and rules add a whole new level to the competition in sports.

Every Thanksgiving day, the Wayland football team comes together one final time to play against their rivals, the Weston Wildcats, for families to watch and cheer. As COVID-19 restricts football to play in February instead of fall, the senior captains and head coach Scott Parseghian reflect on their past Thanksgiving games, and their disappointment to not hold this tradition this year.

“Last year was my first year playing in the [Thanksgiving] game, and it was exciting being with those seniors for the last time and giving it your all every play, so you don’t disappoint them,” senior captain Shane DeRubeis said. “We woke up early and headed straight to the high school where Coach P makes the team pancakes and then we went straight into pregame. It’s always just a great way to end off the season.”

As past memories of this annual game fill in for their inability to play this year, players reflect on what would have been their last time playing altogether as the 2020 team.

“It is really disappointing knowing that for the first time in decades the Thanksgiving game will not be played,” senior captain Nick Dresens said. “Especially being a senior, this is a very big game.”

As the disappointment settles, these captains also look back on the excitement and prior hopes to what this game would have entailed.

“No matter what usually everyone gets to play, because we usually beat Weston so bad we put in the backups,” senior captain Matt Morris said. “For instance my freshman year, the only year I didn’t start, I got to go out and play with my two brothers when the second-stringers went in. It was a really good moment.”

The excitement this game entails also comes with the glorifying and iconic trophy, which the winner of this rivalry matchup gets to take home.

“Of course, [I was excited for] beating Weston and having our year’s scoreboard put on the Thanksgiving trophy,” DeRubeis said. “It’s the rivalry and we have to make sure we hold on to the trophy. I don’t want to be the senior class that loses the trophy.”

Although these players are missing out on an exciting game, they have their upcoming season to look forward to and channel their energy to create an unforgettable, yet unexpected, winter season.

“As a captain, while it is disappointing that the game isn’t happening, we still have a full season to look forward to in just a few short months,” Dresens said. “Keeping this in mind has helped people find the motivation to work out and just keep getting better for when we do [get to] play.”

As the Thanksgiving game is important to these players, it means just as much to the coaching staff. Year after year, these coaches have incorporated this tradition into their holiday celebrations, and without it, an unknown feeling arises in the football program.

Between playing and coaching, Parseghian has been a part of this annual tradition for 29 years. The game marks the end of the season, which can be an emotional time not only for the players but the coaches, as they have watched these players grow throughout their athletic careers.

Not only is the Thanksgiving game a time when coaches watch the improvements they have helped make their players on the field, but it is also a good time where they can connect with past players. Many alumni players come home, watch the game and catch up with the coaches.

“The game is special because it’s usually the last time you are together with the seniors who have become family after everything you have gone through over the four years in the program,” Parseghian said. “It’s also a great time to catch up with the alumni that played in the game too.”

Parseghian is most disappointed about missing their morning prep before the game. Every year, the coaches and athletes meet in the Wayland High School commons two hours before the game where the coaches make their players breakfast. Breakfast includes chocolate chip pancakes, plain pancakes and sausage. After breakfast, the team takes the bus over to Weston High School, where they start warmups. The morning prep was also a time when the coaches could discuss game plans with the players to make everyone excited.

“So many things make it different. Playing at 10 a.m., being the last game, seeing all the alumni and turning the page to get ready for the next season,” Parseghian said.

Although the Thanksgiving game was not able to happen this year, the coaches and players are staying enthusiastic about their season in February and are ready to work together on the field. The cancellation allowed the players and coaches to gain more of an appreciation for the game and remember all the good memories in past years.

“COVID-19 gave us a greater appreciation of the Thanksgiving game,” Parseghian said. “When next year comes I will make sure to soak up every minute of the game.”