Thanksgiving football: a traditional time.
Thanksgiving football: a tricky time.
The tradition is related to the rich history of many of these rivalries, some of which go back more than 100 years.
The trickiness is related to the complication some teams face in playing a game stuffed with significance at an odd time in the season - a few days after an emotional victory in the sectional semifinals and a little more than a week before the South Jersey championship.
"You owe it to your seniors to try to win, especially when you're undefeated," West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom said. "We play all-out to win the game."
West Deptford (10-0) plays at rival Paulsboro (8-2) on Saturday at noon. That's eight days before West Deptford will meet Cedar Creek on Dec. 6 in the South Jersey Group 2 title game at Rowan University.
Cedar Creek (9-1) plays at St. Augustine (8-1) on Thanksgiving morning. The Pirates are fresh off a signature win over two-time defending champion Haddonfield in the sectional semifinals.
Shawnee (8-2) is looking at a minefield of a game at school-district rival Lenape (8-2) on Thanksgiving morning. The Renegades, the two-time defending South Jersey Group 4 champions, then will prepare to meet Timber Creek for the third year in a row in the sectional title game Dec. 6 at Rowan.
"Play hard and come out healthy," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue of the team's game plan for its clash with Lenape.
Pennsville (9-1) is facing the same issue in its Wednesday night game against Penns Grove (5-4). The Eagles have to prepare for the South Jersey Group 1 title game against Clayton (8-2), which plays Thanksgiving against old rival Pitman (2-7).
Timber Creek (7-3) plays Triton (1-8) on Thanksgiving before the Chargers can begin full preparations for Shawnee.
Williamstown (9-1) has to battle rival Washington Township (5-4) for the second time in three weeks before the Braves can turn their attention to meeting Toms River North (10-1) in the South Jersey Group 5 title game Dec. 5 at Rowan.
Camden (8-2) is in the same boat. The Panthers play rival Woodrow Wilson (6-3) for the second time in three weeks on Thanksgiving morning and then have to prepare for the South Jersey Group 3 title game Dec. 5 against Delsea (10-1) at Rowan.
Palmyra (9-1) plays rival Burlington City (3-6) before focusing on the Central Jersey Group 1 title game Dec. 5 at Kean University against Shore (10-0).
Neither Toms River North nor Delsea plays a Thanksgiving game, so both teams will have a full two weeks to prepare for the sectional final.
St. Joseph (9-2) doesn't have a Thanksgiving game, either, so the Wildcats have 15 days to prepare for the Non-Public 2 title game Dec. 6 against Hudson Catholic (10-1) at Rowan.
What a comeback. Palmyra was down, 34-14, at halftime against Keyport on Friday night in the Central Jersey Group 1 semifinals.
The Panthers rallied with 21 unanswered points in the second half to advance to the sectional title game.
"It was pretty close to a total team meltdown," Palmyra coach Jack Geisel said of the end of the first half, when Keyport scored 14 points in the final nine seconds. "At halftime, we just talked to them about staying calm and settling down.
"We hadn't been in that exact situation before, but we certainly had the capability of scoring 21 points in the second half."
Palmyra tightened its defense and rallied behind senior quarterback Max Smyth, who was 18 for 23 passing for 361 yards and three touchdowns.
"We've been telling these kids, 'You want to be a championship team, you can't lose your composure,' " Geisel said. "They were upset, but they settled down and played a lot better football in the second half."
Gold laces. Several South Jersey teams plan to wear gold shoelaces during their Thanksgiving games in support of the "Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer" campaign.
The initiative will support Go4theGoal's programs to support local children and their families.
"Thanksgiving is the perfect time for us to give thanks for all the healthy children in our lives and to keep in our thoughts all those who are battling cancer and other illnesses," Beth Stefanacci, founding director of Go4theGoal, said in a statement. "We started the 'Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer' campaign because of the outcry from athletes that wanted a way to kids in their communities with cancer"
The following teams are expected to wear gold laces during Thanksgiving games: Deptford, Schalick, Cumberland, Lindenwold, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, Cherokee, and Seneca.
Performance of the week. Clayton senior all-purpose player Elijah Rehm put together a remarkable performance Friday in his team's 34-21 victory over Glassboro in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinals.
Rehm blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown. He ran 85 yards for another touchdown. And he returned an interception 65 yards for another score.
"He's a ball hawk," Clayton coach Marvin Tucker said. "He was making plays all over the field."