LYNN — One of the city’s most anticipated matchups of the year is back on the horizon. With Thanksgiving Day football just days away, all eyes will be on Lynn’s biggest rivalry.
Lynn English (2-6) and Lynn Classical (5-3) will be facing off yet again this Thursday, continuing the decades-long Thanksgiving tradition. With the excitement surrounding the event, English’s Anthony LaFratta and Classical’s Brian Vaughan know its players are going to come out with a little extra fire.
“It’s one of the best rivalries in the state,” LaFratta said. “The season has not been quite where we wanted it to be… but when you go into Thanksgiving, it doesn’t matter what your record is… you got a chance to make your season right with a win.”
Vaughan adamantly agreed.
“If you throw records out the window, you’re going to get the best from each side,” Vaughan said. “Our guys will be excited, their guys will be excited, I expect it to be a dogfight.”
In most cases, the game comes down to the players and coaches on each side. However, when it’s Thanksgiving between two rivals in the same city, it becomes so much more than just football.
“Not only does (the game) mean a lot to the kids, it means a lot to the city,” Vaughan said. “You have family members on both sidelines… a lot of closeness between the kids on both sides, they all know each other, they all played with each other… it’s bragging rights for the whole year.”
LaFratta also knows that friends will become foes at kickoff on Thursday morning.
“Going into Thanksgiving there’s always a little extra juice with everybody, especially when you have an in-city rivalry like English and Classical,” he said. “They all know each other, they’ve been friends for years.”
Both coaches also described how exciting the atmosphere is on Thanksgiving, with all sorts of members from the community headed to Manning Field for the game.
“You get the old-timers to come out, the kids that just graduated, you get the kids in the school, the teachers, it’s just a really cool atmosphere,” LaFratta said.
The Bulldogs are going into Thursday looking for revenge after English got the best of them a year ago, and LaFratta has taken note of what the Rams have done well this season to help his team gameplan.
“(Classical) is really good at the skill positions… we know their big play capability… so it’s about being disciplined. The old saying is that the team that tackles the best and blocks the best will win, and I feel that’s the case with this football game,” he said.
LaFratta has also seen a shift in his team’s mentality that could help it in its rivalry game.
“You try to do the same sort of stuff you’ve been doing in terms of your practice schedule and in terms of your routine,” he said. “But you can just feel the intensity is picking up, the focus is better.”
For Classical it is much of the same, as a win on Thanksgiving has been at the top of the to-do list all season long, according to Vaughan.
“One of our top goals is to win on Thanksgiving… we prepare all year for this, and we talk about it all season,” he said. “They’re athletic, they run the ball well… we just want (the team) to finish strong and end the season on a high note.
There is no doubt how much this game has meant to the players, fans, and members of the Lynn community over the years. And with both coaches’ deep history with the matchup themselves, a win would be so much sweeter than any other game.
“I’ve been a part of this game as a coach and player growing up,” Vaughan said. “I coached at English for seven or eight years as an assistant, and I’ve been the coach (at Classical) for seven years, so I know what this game means.”
As for LaFratta, his fond memories as a child and as a coach make this game the biggest circle on his calendar.
“I’ve been coming to Lynn Classical games since I was 8 years old,” he said. “I still remember coming when my dad was coaching on the sideline and seeing the bowl fill up. I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world.”
Now as head coach, LaFratta takes his responsibility to win on Thanksgiving Day with pride.
“Just to be the head coach and to take part in it is truly an honor… I am very blessed to work with such a great group of kids and coaches, and I just hope we can send them out the right way,” he said.
Classical and English will conclude the 2023 season on Thanksgiving at 10 a.m.