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Norristown and Upper Merion set for Thanksgiving showdown

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UPPER MERION >> Jason Powel said the members of his football team have taken to YouTube to get some kind of perspective on what the Norristown-Upper Merion Thanksgiving Day football game once meant.

“All of the old-time games are up on YouTube,” Powel said, “and our guys are amazed at all the people who used to come to the games.”

Those multi-thousand-numbered crowds that once turned Roosevelt Field into a scholastic football version of Woodstock Thanksgiving morning are unlikely for Thursday morning (10 a.m.) at Upper Merion High School when the rivalry is renewed on Turkey Day for the first time since 1989.

But that doesn’t mean the contest will be without emotion.

For the Vikings (4-7), the game is something head coach Harold Smith is hoping to use as a springboard into next year.

“We want to end the season on a positive note.” Smith said, “I wasn’t involved in the rivalry as a player or a coach, that’s something for the community to get fired up about.

“But we’d like to get this win and use it as momentum going into next season.”

As for Powel’s Eagles (4-7), the coach was one of the many who used to hunker down at Roosevelt among the thousands and marvel at the spectacle that was the Norristown-Upper Merion game.

“There was nothing like it,” Powel said. “It was how Thanksgiving Day started for the people of Norristown.

“That feeling, I think, is gone now, but that doesn’t mean the rivalry is over.”

This year’s game should be competitive, and it should be fast.

The central figures in the game, Norristown’s Khalif Sinclair and Upper Merion’s Isaiah Graham-Mobley, are not known for their hard-grinding and gritty ways.

Instead, they’re known for their abilities to completely blow up a game.

Graham-Mobley, the son of former Harriton running back Kevin Mobley, who was coached by both Smith and Powel in high school, is a Temple commit who was recruited as a safety or linebacker by the Owls, but has played wideout, quarterback, cornerback and safety for the Vikings.

“I had the pleasure of coaching Isaiah’s dad,” Powel said, “and he was a good one.

“Isaiah looks just like him and plays just like him, too.”

As for Sinclair, he is a big play waiting to happen, and has “broken” more than a few defenders’ ankles this year.

“Everybody knows you have to stop No. 7,” Smith said of Sinclair. “We have to stop him and find a way to neutralize Norristown’s speed.”

As for how this one plays out, look for both the Eagles and Vikings to get their playmakers in space.

In its win over Norristown, Archbishop Carroll chose to run right at the Eagles defense to try and blunt their collective speed.

The Vikings aren’t blessed with Carroll’s size, but will no doubt test the trenches.

Offensively, Upper Merion will continue its practice of rotating quarterbacks Jarrett Quinn, Liam Stutzman and even Graham-Mobley.

Similarly, Norristown will use both Desmond Gorski and Diavante Lloyd at quarterback and try and get the ball into the hands of Sinclair, Cory Davenport or Derik Cross.

A Thanksgiving Day Classic?

Probably not, but it should be decided in the fourth quarter, which is all you can ask from a couple of struggling programs playing their final game of the season.

A YouTube posting isn’t likely, but who knows?

FOOT-NOTES >> The Norristown players are planning on getting an escort to the game from the East Norriton, West Norriton and Norristown Fire Companies.

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