North Middlesex, St. B’s end Turkey Day rivalry

For the second straight year, there will be a new look to Thanksgiving morning football as two local schools have announced new grid rivals.

St. Bernard’s and North Middlesex Regional — which have played each other on Thanksgiving Eve the last four years — have ended that relationship, the contract between the schools not renewed.

The Bernardians announced earlier this week that they will now play Maynard High School, while the Patriots will now play Auburn in what is being termed as a one-year agreement.

In order to decipher the shuffling changes, one needs a road map.

Prior to the new matchups, Auburn had played Holy Name on Thanksgiving for most of the last decade. Prior to that, Auburn had played Oxford, and the Napoleons had played Wachusett Regional. But with Holy Name and St. Peter-Marian merging this summer to become St. Paul’s, the Rockets needed a new opponent. St. John’s, which played SPM, will continue to play against the new entity.

With the Rockets free, NM jumped at the chance.

North Middlesex announced its new rivalry on Thursday, April 23, in a letter to students from athletic director Cam Fisk.

“With all of the alignment changes coming after the Spring of 2021, this matchup is a one-year agreement and we will revisit it after we know more about our football schedule for 2021-22,” Fisk said. “Basically, we play Auburn in most sports, and our school sizes are comparable. It makes sense (to play the Rockets).”

For St. Bernard’s, the two-time reigning Division 8 state champion, the new rivalry with the Tigers is long-awaited. According to longtime coach Tom Bingham, the Blue and Gold had wanted to play Maynard after the Bernies’ 20-year Thanksgiving Eve relationship with Lunenburg ended in 2015. The two football programs have a solid working relationship, having played in preseason the last few years, as well as going to the same 7-on-7 league and the same camps.

When that didn’t occur, Maynard went on to play Milford, while St. B’s went on to play North Middlesex.

The Bernardians won three of the four meetings against the Patriots, with NM coming out on top of last November’s matchup.
At present, it is not known as to which day the St. B’s-Maynard game will be played. Those details are still being worked out.
“Both schools are excited to start this new tradition and look forward to a positive partnership in the coming years,” said St. Bernard’s athletic director Faith Merchant.

Switching rivalries is old hat.

St. B’s had played Clinton on Thanksgiving morning before ending that relationship ahead of joining forces with Lunenburg in the mid-1990s. And Maynard had played Clinton prior to the 2015 split that saw the Tigers play Milford, and the Gaels re-affirming their local rivalry with nearby Nashoba Regional.

Last spring, Lunenburg and Oakmont Regional — which has been a massive rivalry apart from football — had announced they had resumed their turkey ties. The Blue Knights had played Quabbin Regional since 2015, while the Spartans had played Gardner since breaking off from Lunenburg in 1976.