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Former Thanksgiving Eve Rivals Lunenburg, St. Bernard’s to Square Off for First Time Since 2014

November 9, 2018

No, there’s no need to check your calendar. It’s November, yes--but it’s still early November.

Don’t tell that to former Thanksgiving Eve rivals Lunenburg and St. Bernard’s, or any of their fans for that matter.

The Blue Knights and Bernardians will renew acquaintances for the first time in four years on Saturday morning, as the two local squads will contend for the Central Mass. Division 8 championship at Doyle Field beginning at 11 a.m.

The two teams suspended their football rivalry after 2014′s contest, which saw multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called. Both programs quickly found new Thanksgiving opponents, with Lunenburg locking horns with Quabbin Regional while St. B’s connected with North Middlesex Regional.

But that’s in the past: time to focus on the future, which will be a 44-minute slobberknocker.

The winner of Saturday’s contest will take on either Lee or Hoosac Valley in the state semifinals next weekend, which will be held at Doyle.

Nashoba Regional is also in action Saturday, as the Chieftains will hook up with Tantasqua Regional at Foley Stadium for the Central Mass. Division 4 championship.

The winner of the Division 4 title will take on the Eastern Mass. North champion -- Wayland or Gloucester, which play tonight in Gloucester, in the state semifinal next weekend. The Division 4 South champion, either Dighton-Rehoboth or Milton, get the bye straight to Gillette Stadium.

The Central Mass. Division 4 champion will next get the bye to Gillette in 2020.

Fitchburg will finish off the first 10 weeks of the football season on Friday night, but it won’t be at the corner of Circle and Broad; it will be at Fitchburg State’s Elliot Field, where the Red Raiders will take on Maynard. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Maynard coach Harold Ogilvie, who played against Fitchburg during his high school years at Wachusett Regional, told me Tuesday that he’s excited for a chance to tangle with the Red and Gray.

“I haven’t been to a game in Fitchburg since 1995,” Ogilvie said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to play a storied program.”

The matchup is a change of what the Central Mass. Football Committee had set up on Sunday afternoon: originally, Fitchburg was supposed to play West Boylston, which would have been the first time the Raiders and Lions had ever met on the gridiron.

Maynard was set to play at Assabet Valley before Ogilvie said he received a call from Shrewsbury athletic director Jay Costa at 1 p.m. Monday about the switch; Ogilvie and his staff had already started game-planning for the Aztecs. Within an hour of contacting Fitchburg, Ogilvie he had a recent game film from FHS.

In addition, as Maynard was an old Midland League team and with Fitchburg in the old Wachusett League, this will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

The Tigers have been an impressive program since Ogilvie took it over, and have been one of the top grid programs in Division 6 with the introduction of the new playoff system. This year, Maynard is 8-1, and by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, it will have played a team in every Central Mass. division.

A reminder to fans: with the lack of parking at Elliot, fans are encouraged to park at the Wallace Civic Center and hoof it through the trails.

Leominster will host North Middlesex in both teams’ final tune-ups before Thanksgiving at Doyle Field Friday night (7 p.m., WPKZ 105.3 FM/LATV). And while that is in the frontal cortices of the mind, it’s also marks the first time that Patriots head coach Ryan DeMar returns to his old stomping grounds.

DeMar is a 2011 Leominster graduate. Suffice it to say, he’s looking forward to the trip to Doyle.

″(Leominster is) a good team with a great staff and top-tier field. Coach (Dave) Palazzi was my offensive coordinator for a year at LHS. I am excited to go in as an opponent because the players and staff at North Middlesex have been working hard and we are looking to play a complete game at the level we know we can. Also, it will be nice to play on a top tier field as that will be what we will have on campus next year,” he said.

North Middlesex assistant John Caouette is also a Leominster grad, so it’ll be two friendly faces walking into Doyle wearing enemy colors.

In other local gridiron games:

Monty Tech will travel through downtown Ayer to take on the Panthers of Ayer-Shirley Regional for a 5 p.m. contest.

Gardner, which was off last Friday night, will travel to the Morgan Bowl to take on a Hudson team that is a shadow of its former glory. The Hawks earned their first win of the season on Saturday, when they clobbered Worcester South, 36-0.

The Wildcats are 0-8 and are in danger of going winless for the second consecutive season. Gardner has not won since Nov. 11, 2016, when it beat David Prouty, 33-15. That’s 19 games without a victory.

Oakmont, which fell in the Division 5 semifinals, will travel to Foley Stadium to take on Burncoat for what is essentially third place in that division. That game is noon on Sunday.

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