Connect with us


Thanksgiving Football: Rivalry, records and pride all at stake as Ridley renews holiday with Interboro

Ridley quarterback John Heller puts a shiver to a Conestoga player in a game earlier this month. (PETE BANNAN - MEDIANEWS GROUP)

RIDLEY TWP. — They would rather play on Friday night for a district championship, but Ridley seniors Tahir “Tubby” Mills and John Heller need no motivation to suit up on Thanksgiving morning.

The Green Raiders (11-2) lost to a better Coatesville team last Friday in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals, 50-14. By Sunday they were back at practice, preparing to take their frustrations out on Interboro Thursday morning at South Avenue Athletic Complex.

The Ridley-Interboro Thanksgiving Day rivalry has been dominated by the Green Raiders, 39-13. Two years ago, the Bucs pulled off a 28-21 upset at Phil Marion Field to send Hall of Fame coach Steve Lennox off happily into retirement.  Last year’s game was not played due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So, revenge is one reason for Ridley to be motivated. But that’s just the start.

Mills and Heller are approaching significant milestones. Mills needs 42 yards to break Delaware County’s single-season rushing record that has stood for six years. Upper Darby’s Isaiah Bruce rushed for 2,450 yards in 2015.

Mills, humble as always, didn’t have much to say on the subject.

“It would be nice, but I’m not worried about it right now,” he said. “We want to get the win and the record will come with the win.”

Heller looks to join Delco’s exclusive 2,000-yard club. He has passed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns. The last Ridley quarterback to throw for 2,000 yards in a season was Colin Masterson, the 2019 Daily Times Player of the Year.

“I worked my (butt) off during the offseason,” Heller said. “Having a guy like Tubby does help a lot. Defenses are stacking the box and we can spread the ball around. But it’s also cool to hit 2K.”

And then there’s the bulletin board material. The Green Raiders absolutely noticed the posts from Interboro social media accounts informing their followers they’ll see them on Thanksgiving, mere moments after Ridley’s loss at Coatesville was official.

“After the Coatesville game, the first thing I saw was the tweet,” Heller said. “I was ready then. I can’t wait to play them.”

Hey, what’s a Ridley-Interboro game without a little drama?

Ridley coach Dave Wood is a Penn Wood graduate, but most of his staff members, including Mike Ewing, John Anderson and Eric Engle, played at Ridley and in the Thanksgiving game.

“We had a lot of the guys talk to the kids on Sunday just about the game in general,” Wood said. “I mean, a lot of our coaches now that I have are all alums and actually played in the game. … It was just to air out some things and talk about the importance of the rivalry. We are lucky to have one extra game to kind of make things right.”

While Ridley was advancing through the playoffs, Interboro was waiting around on the practice field, wondering if there was going to be a Thanksgiving game. Had the Green Raiders won at Coatesville, the game would likely have been scratched.

“I’m very proud of the way they worked last week not knowing their fate going forward,” Bucs coach Dennis Lux said of his team. “We just talked about the controllables. The only thing we can control is practicing as hard as we can, preparing for Ridley, if there (would be) a game.”

Ridley’s only losses came to Garnet Valley and Coatesville, who play each other Friday night for the district championship. The 2021 Green Raiders are the first Ridley team to make the district semifinals since the 2009 team that captured the program’s third district title in the old 4A classification and advanced to the state semifinals.

Adding a 12th win would be the perfect sendoff for the senior class.

“It means a lot,” senior lineman Khalil Blagmon said. “I’ve never played in a Turkey Bowl. I’m just ready to play some football and make them regret ever wanting to play us.”

• • •

Chichester and Sun Valley renew their Turkey Day rivalry at Appichella Memorial Field at 10:30 a.m.

The Eagles (5-4) have won two straight over the Vanguards (2-8) and three of the last four meetings. Sun Valley holds a 28-24 advantage all-time.

Chichester is looking to clinch the program’s first winning season since 2005. Buoyed by outstanding junior Staring Reaves the Eagles earned a share of the Del Val League title with Academy Park and played in the District 1 Class 4A semifinals.

First-year Sun Valley coach Ernie Ellis played in the game for the Vanguards in 1995, a 2-0 Chichester win.

“Everybody loves that story,” Ellis said. “It was actually decent (weather) that day but it rained the night before. At least that’s the way I remember it.”

Ellis hopes his guys can snap a two-game skid and make their own memories.

“I know the kids look forward to it. Us as coaches look forward to it,” Ellis said. “Just being a part of the tradition, especially now that there’s only three (Thanksgiving Day) games left in Delaware County. It’s kind of special.”

Ed Buck is the rookie head coach at Chi. But unlike Ellis, he has no ties to the rivalry.

“You can really tell the energy’s juiced in the school. It was funny (Monday); I must have had about 12 staff members who I don’t think have said a thing to me about football all year that were asking what time the game is, whether we’re going to win, what the deal is…” Buck said. “You can tell there’s a certain energy with this game that maybe having that year off really helped re-ignite. Everyone here is pumped, I know that.”

As for the players, this is the game everyone has circled on the schedule.

“For some kids, I think this is the only game they care about,” Sun Valley senior linebacker Tom Malenki said. “… This is a great tradition we’ve got going on here.”

• • •

The 99th edition of the Upper Darby and Haverford Thanksgiving game takes place at A.G. Cornog Field. Kickoff is 10:45.

Due to the pandemic, last year was the first time since 1925 the game was not played on Thanksgiving.

Haverford has reeled off 10 consecutive victories and leads the series, 49-43-6.

First-year boss Luke Dougherty leads a 5-6 Haverford team that qualified for the District 1 Class 6A tournament. The Fords have a dynamic duo in quarterback Tommy Wright and wide receiver Ethan Mathan, both of whom are juniors.

This is the first time in 30 years that Joe Gallagher is not coaching the Fords on Thanksgiving. The legendary coach retired after the 2020 season.

Upper Darby (5-5) hasn’t played a game since Oct. 30. Second-year Royals coach Dave Barr is a 1998 graduate of Haverford and Turkey Bowl alumnus.

UD senior Julien Laventure sees the game as an opportunity to finish his high school career on top.

“We know this is it for us, one more game,” he said. “We have to give everything we’ve got to win.”

• • •

If you’re itching for pigskin on Turkey Day but can’t wait any longer, you can watch Penncrest and Marple Newtown play for the second time this season Wednesday evening. Kickoff is 6 o’clock at Primo Hoagie Stadium, MN’s home field.

This is the second annual Thanksgiving Eve showdown between the Central League rivals. In 2019, Marple Newtown earned a 15-7 win at Penncrest.

Many players from MN and Penncrest played in the annual St. Annie’s-St. Pius Turkey Bowl as youths.

The Tigers (8-4) advanced to the second round of the District 1 Class 5A tournament where they fell to championship finalist Strath Haven. Senior running back Charlie Box has gained 1,498 yards on the ground this season.

Paul Graham assumed head coaching duties at Penncrest following Ryan Smith’s resignation in September. The Lions (1-9) have received solid production from senior wide receiver Jimmy Cage, who has 27 catches for 527 yards and five TDs.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Recent News


More in Football