The 48-year-old Thanksgiving football rivalry between Bedford and Concord-Carlisle High Schools is no more.
“We thought it was the best thing for the future of our program to make the change,” said BHS Director of Athletics Keith Mangan. “This is something that we have been considering for the past few years, based on the outcome of the games and where our two programs are.”
Discussion and analysis involving the coaching staff, the superintendent’s office, and BHS administrators led to the decision, which was unilateral, Mangan said, and accepted by CCHS. “It certainly wasn’t an easy decision,” he emphasized. “There was a lot of thought and planning.”
Mangan said he is pursuing prospects for a Thanksgiving 2021 opponent “that’s more in line with our program.” That arrangement could be for a single year or develop into a long-term rivalry. “We want to evaluate to make sure it’s a good fit for both teams.”
Bedford High’s annual holiday matchup with Concord-Carlisle began in 1973. Bedford had been playing Burlington on Thanksgiving. The CCHS Patriots’ traditional rival was Lexington High, and that change was not well received for many years by fans and some players in those two towns.
Overall, the Patriots won 33, Bedford 13 on the holiday. Since that opener in 1973, which Bedford won, 28-20, the rivalry has been a story of two eras.
Between 1973 and 1999, Concord-Carlisle had the edge on Thanksgiving, but only by a margin of 16 wins to 10 (the outcome in 1980 was 6-6). Indeed, the Bucs won seven of the 12 games between 1987 and 1999, which was the final year of legendary Coach Armand Sabourin’s 30-year career.
Both teams were in the same division for post-season play—in 1978 the Thanksgiving game decided who would advance to the schoolboy Super Bowl.
Since 2000, the Patriots not only have won 17 of 20 Thanksgiving games, but also two additional regular-season contests in 2013 and 2014, when the state post-season playoff system was in its infancy.
It didn’t happen all at once. During the 2000s, Bedford won two of eight games, but the total points scored by each team on Thanksgiving over the decade was 219-164. Five of the BHS losses were by one or two possessions.
But starting in 2010, the series has swung almost entirely to Concord-Carlisle. Bedford’s last win was an overtime thriller in 2012. Since then the Patriots have outscored the Bucs on Thanksgiving, 287-106, a per-game average margin of almost 26 points. The differential after every game was at least three possessions. C-C scored more than 40 points each year since 2015; before that, it only happened once.
For many years the two schools were close to the same size in student population. Indeed, in the 1970s, the Bucs dressed more than 60 varsity players, almost all of them juniors and seniors.
Now Concord-Carlisle’s total enrollment is close to 150 percent more than Bedford’s, 1,280 to 858. The Patriots are in a higher post-season division, which is enrollment-based.
Mangan pointed out that the MIAA state playoff structure contributed to the demise of the rivalry. For example, in 2013, Bedford won the MIAA Division 3 North sectionals and then played Dennis-Yarmouth in the state semifinals.
After losing that game—one of the most meaningful in the history of the football program—the Bucs had just five days to reignite their emotions for Thanksgiving. They were blanked 18-0.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763