Outtakes from LIFE: Thanksgiving football edition

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Writer: Matthew J. Gill

Outtakes from LIFE: Thanksgiving football edition

 /  /

Writer: Matthew J. Gill

MASHPEE: After interviewing 15 local athletic directors, football coaches, and team supporters for an article on Thanksgiving Day rivalries among Cape Cod teams—as well as the Island Cup game between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket—there were lots of fun and funny stories to share, but only a finite amount of magazine pages in which to do so.

In print, we covered Barnstable vs. Falmouth, Bourne vs. Wareham, and Dennis-Yarmouth vs. Nauset. Online at capecodlife.com, we added stories on Sandwich vs. Mashpee and the Island Cup matchup, which is generally held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. (Check out that article here.) But, my notebook has more pages, and I have a few more fun football anecdotes and factoids I’d like to share.

Football action during the 2006 game between Bourne and Wareham.

Without any further ado, here’s my first blog post for Cape Cod LIFE, which I’m calling “Outtakes from LIFE—the Thanksgiving Football edition.” Hope you enjoy!

Barnstable and Falmouth have played more than 100 games on Thanksgiving.

Barnstable and Falmouth have played more than 100 games on Thanksgiving.

1. Ed Winslow, who coached the Falmouth High football team from 1986 to 1998, is married to Janet Winslow, who just happens to be the sister of former Barnstable High football coach Don Dorr. On the night before the 1987 Thanksgiving game, Dorr and his kids headed out at 4 a.m. to decorate the familiar Falmouth coach’s house and front yard—in Red Raider red and white. For his part, Winslow says his family has often given the Dorrs wonderful Christmas gifts of maroon (Falmouth’s colors) clothing.

2. Dorr, who coached Barnstable from 1977 to 1980, played college football at Syracuse University, and his Orangemen teammates included Larry Csonka and current New York Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin. Asked to describe Csonka, a star running back at Syracuse and an NFL Hall of Famer who helped the Miami Dolphins to an undefeated season (17-0) and a Super Bowl title in 1972, Dorr used the phrase “twisted blue steel.”


3. During Dorr’s first season at the helm in Barnstable, coach and team really wanted a victory because the Red Raiders hadn’t won on Thanksgiving in nine seasons. That year—1977—the game was very close, but Falmouth eked out a 7 to 0 victory. Toward the end of the game, Dorr says there was a call on a close play that was heavily disputed.

“Was it a touchdown,” he recalls, “or was it a fumble? It was ruled a fumble.” Asked in jest if a clearer decision could be made from the instant replay, Dorr says that wasn’t an option back then. “They hardly had anything in those days,” he says.

4. A 1968 graduate of Falmouth High, Winslow played college ball at Springfield, served as an assistant coach at New Bedford High and at Syracuse University (with his future brother-in-law, Dorr!) and coached at Somerset High before returning to coach his hometown team in 1986. Winslow coached the Clippers through 1998—leading them to a Super Bowl final in 1994—and is a member of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In addition to the reunion-like atmosphere, which Winslow says is just one of the great aspects of the annual Thanksgiving game, he says another fun gathering is held annually on the Friday before the game at Falmouth’s Quarterdeck Restaurant. Coaches from all eras and all Falmouth High sports attend, and the laughter is contagious. “Talk about a lot of funny stories,” Winslow says. “It’s a great time.”

Coach Shields speaks with his Barnstable High players - 1952.

Coach Shields speaks with his Barnstable High players – 1952.

5. Speaking of great times, Sean Walsh, who helped organize the Barnstable High Athletics Hall of Fame and who founded and runs the everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-Barnstable-High-School-football website, redraiderpride.com, mentioned the great “subculture of tailgating” that takes place in the hours leading up to the Barnstable-Falmouth Thanksgiving game.

“People show up with all kinds of food,” Walsh says. “It’s like a feast: lobsters, homemade clam chowder, all kinds of stuff, RVs, the whole shebang. It’s awesome. It’s like NFL tailgating.”

6. “Encyclopedia” Walsh was a wealth of information for our article and shared many great football stories. Here are some highlights that didn’t make the magazine:

6a. In 2006, Falmouth won 14 to 12, but the game was held, unusually, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The holiday game had been rescheduled because the forecast called for a massive rainstorm, but Walsh says the weather did not turn out as bad, locally, as had been expected.

As a point of reference, Thanksgiving games were held between Bourne and Wareham and D-Y and Nauset that morning, and coaches from those teams shared stories of slippery fields, rain that fell in sheets, and players being indistinguishable from one another due to the amount of mud caked on their uniforms and helmets. And—a lot of fun!

Football action during the 2006 game between Bourne and Wareham.

Action from the 2006 game between Bourne and Wareham.

6b. In researching the Thanksgiving rivalry, Walsh learned that years ago, Barnstable and Falmouth sometimes played two times in a given season, and some years they did not play at all. During World War II in 1943, no game was held as Falmouth lacked enough players to field a team; in 1932, no game was held because a riot had broken out at the game the previous year.

Prior to 1943, Barnstable lined up on occasion against other local teams on Thanksgiving Day including squads from Provincetown, Chatham, and Middleboro. Going back even further, Barnstable High School’s first ever football game was played against Sandwich on November 12, 1893.

6c. Clearly knowledgeable on the history of Barnstable football, Walsh describes the team’s 2013 season “as one of the greatest seasons in the history of the school.”

6d. A graduate of Acton-Boxboro High School, which has its own storied football history, Walsh moved to Barnstable in 1991—just, he recalls, before Hurricane Bob. Marooned—for lack of a better word—on the Cape that fall, Walsh says he couldn’t not attend a football game on Thanksgiving. “I went to the game, alone,” he says. “My family’s all here now, but they weren’t then. I was hooked, and I’ve been to every game since.”

7. Kathleen Burke, Falmouth High’s athletic director, says the late Paul Anderson, archivist of the Quarterback Club (of Falmouth), was an expert on Clipper football—and in particular the Thanksgiving rivalry. Sadly, Anderson passed away this past summer. “He was the go-to person in Falmouth ,” Burke says. “A wonderful guy: he is missed here.” Burke says Anderson had lots of photos, clippings, and other materials from the rivalry, and she jokingly referred to him as “the Sean Walsh equivalent in Falmouth.”

8. A few miles away in Bourne, Bourne High School athletic director Scott Ashworth has been involved in a lot of sporting activities during his career at the school. From 1993 to 2002, Ashworth was the Canalmen’s head football coach and over the years has also coached basketball and baseball. Pertaining to football, Bourne and Wareham have competed in 83 games on Thanksgiving morning, dating to 1934. Ashworth highlighted one game in the series—the winner of which, today, claims the ‘Superintendent’s Cup’—when the weather played an influential role.

Early that game day morning, Ashworth says the temperature registered about 35 degrees, and all the players, coaches, and fans arrived bundled in cold weather gear. As the game and morning wore on, though, things really heated up—reaching about 65 degrees. “The kids were melting and the field was melting,” Ashworth says. As a result, the field devolved into a slippery, muddy mess. “Really all you could do,” he says, “was line up and here we come.”

Action from the Dennis-Yarmouth vs. Nauset High Turkey Day rivalry.

Action from the Dennis-Yarmouth vs. Nauset High Turkey Day rivalry.

Keith Kenyon, athletic director and head football coach at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, says the program has been building momentum in recent years, winning six games in 2011; seven in 2011; and nine in 2012. Despite that upward trend, however, the Nauset Warriors have not won on Thanksgiving since 2002. “The Thanksgiving game has been a needle in our side because we haven’t beaten D-Y,” Kenyon says.

Interestingly, in 2013, Nauset did beat the Dolphins of Dennis-Yarmouth High School, 21 to 20—but the game wasn’t on Thanksgiving; it was held in September. Due to a recent change in the MIAA playoff system, the teams continue their holiday rivalry on Thanksgiving, but earlier in the season they play a “league” game, which helps determine playoff participants. So Nauset won the first game with D-Y in 2013, but not the second—on the holiday.

Photographer Ralph Steward captured this image during a recent Island Cup game between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

Photographer Ralph Stewart captured this image during a recent Island Cup game between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

10. Across Nantucket Sound, the football teams of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have been squaring off on island gridiron for years. Many islanders have played in the game, and most have been to it, even though the away team has to arrive via ferry. In 1989, Martha’s Vineyard coach Don Herman won his first game in the rivalry. “I don’t know if there was anybody not here,” Herman recalls of the crowd that day, adding that he often jokes that the best time to rob a local residence would be during the Island Cup.

11. For today’s Island Cup games, the away team rides along with its fans aboard a booster-sponsored ferry to get to the other island. In the past, Martha’s Vineyard athletic director Mark McCarthy says the teams themselves would fly to the game, while fans made their way on the ferry below. The one thing to look out for was the weather, McCarthy says, particularly the wind.

Prior to the 2005 game, McCarthy says it was so windy the flights were almost canceled. Eventually, the planes did take off that day, and the trip was made without incident, save some turbulence. “Rumor has it those flights weren’t pleasant,” McCarthy adds.


Martha’s Vineyard photographer Ralph Stewart shot this image of the Island Cup crowd.


Signs of the times – Photo by Ralph Stewart

12. A native of Savannah, Georgia, Martha’s Vineyard coach Don Herman says the approach to football is a little different in the South, where high school teams routinely schedule spring practice workouts. “In the South, they say there are two seasons of the year: football season—and spring football season.” Herman added that some of his high school classmates played for the Georgia Bulldogs alongside Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker.

13. In 2003, the Martha’s Vineyard Vineyarders had shut out every team in their league prior to the annual Island Cup. Though the Vineyarders won the game—and later, the Super Bowl—the Whalers scored a late touchdown to end their rivals’ streak of clean sheets.

14. In writing about these Thanksgiving football rivalries, Falmouth High School parent Jan Heckler Souweine alerted us, via Facebook, about a fun little tradition between students at Falmouth and Barnstable High. On the day of the big game, the two bands gather for a group breakfast that is hosted by the home team and prepared by band members’ parents. “It’s such a combined effort and we have a real ball doing it,” Heckler Souweine says.

The volunteer-chefs sign up for cooking duties beforehand, and a few days before the holiday, Christine Lanoue, president of the Falmouth Band Parents, drops by their homes with a bag of ingredients (say eggs, ham, a pan). “She gives you the recipe,” Heckler Souweine adds. “She tells you everything you need to do. It’s fabulous!” After breakfast, the bands head outside to rehearse the national anthem, then head over to the stadium to perform it.


Cape Cod LIFE editor Matt Gill

Matthew Gill is the editor of Cape Cod LIFE magazine. He can be reached at mgill@capecodlife.com.

Matthew J. Gill

Matthew Gill is the former editor of Cape Cod LIFE and Cape Cod ART magazines. A graduate of U-Mass Dartmouth, Matthew has worked as a journalist since 2003 and has written on topics ranging from the sinking of Nantucket’s whale ship Essex and the history of the Barnstable-Falmouth Thanksgiving football rivalry, to the Cotuit Rowing Club, Provincetown’s Art’s Dune Tours, and more! A relative newcomer when it comes to the Cape, Matt and his wife Melissa just celebrated a Cape Cod-themed wedding.