Lowell (Mass.) High School was about to miss its annual Thanksgiving football game after the school's opponent, Haverhill High School, forfeited the game after a video emerged that allegedly showed members of the team hazing a teenage boy.
That's when Winnacunnet High School stepped in.
According to Seacoastonline.com, Winnacunnet head coach Ryan Francoeur thought his team's season was over and had already collected equipment from his players. But twelve days later, after Lowell athletic director Dave Lezenski called and asked if Winnacunnet could fill in for Haverhill, Francoeur was back in the gymnasium handing out pads and helmets to his players in preparation for the game the holiday game against Lowell.
“(Thanksgiving football) is a big deal to Lowell High School,” said Francoeur, a Somersworth High School graduate who played Thanksgiving Day games against Dover during his high school days. “Yes, it feels good that our kids get to play again, but it really feels good to help a community that has this tradition they love, and not have it go away from no fault of their own. Yes, it’s an opportunity for us, but it feels like we are giving back on a holiday, and I am really excited for the kids to be a part of that.”
Lowell, which has 4-7 record, will host Winnacunnet at 10 a.m. Thursday at Cawley Memorial Stadium.
“A Thanksgiving game would be a great opportunity if our kids wanted to play,” Winnacunnet athletic director Aaron Abood said. “The regular season didn’t go the way any one of us would've hoped. They missed out on the playoffs, and providing this opportunity is something that will be a great time for them, and hopefully, something they remember for the rest of their lives.
After Lowell Public Schools posted a notice to Facebook that the game was back on, commenters expressed their gratitude.
One comment read, “I'm amazed another school was able to play on short notice, I thought it would be impossible to find a team with families having Thanksgiving plans, nice of them to shift their day to come down here to play.”
Another commenter remarked, "I am very happy that the Thanksgiving Day game is saved! Haverhill's bad behavior caused the end of their season and I am glad that it didn't cause the end of Lowell's season too."