The century-old Thanksgiving rivalry between the Hopkinton and Ashland football teams will feature a new twist this year, a rematch.
The Clockers’ move to the Tri-Valley Large division this year set the two teams up for their first ever regular season matchup, an 8-7 Ashland win in late September. But having played the annual rival once this season does not diminish the importance of the holiday game, the 95th installment in the series, according to Hopkinton head coach Jim Girard.
“This game is everything for us right now,” Girard said. “This is an outstanding rivalry with two proud towns who love their football and have a long tradition.”
Both teams qualified for the playoffs this year, with Ashland advancing to the South Sectional final and Hopkinton falling just one game short of that mark. The Clockers pulled off an 8-7 win over Hopkinton earlier this year, and have a chance to get to 10 wins with a Thanksgiving Day victory.
The all-time series has shifted to Hopkinton’s favor in recent years. The Hillers hold the advantage at 51-38-5 on Thanksgiving Day, and Hopkinton’s 2016 loss is the only Turkey Day defeat for Girard in his eight holiday contests. But the results have only been skewed in terms of wins and losses, with most games resembling the one from September, in which Ashland scored in the final minute to win.
“Almost every game has been competitive,” Girard said, “and comes down to the last drive of the game.”
Thanksgiving Day is the final game in the careers of both teams’ seniors, adding to the significance of the rivalry. This year’s Hillers’ class was part of an 11-1 season and a sectional title a year ago, and can get to 7-4 this year with a Thanksgiving win, despite a challenging schedule.
Hopkinton’s four captains — Luke D’Aloia, Ryan Kelleher, Ryan Brown and Theo Cavallo — will all take the field against the Clockers.
“I have known Luke since he was in the fourth grade and was our water boy when his brother was in the program, for him to be leaving is going to be weird,” Girard said. “And Ryan has set every quarterback passing record this year at Hopkinton High School, he has had an unbelievable run.”
Brown was medically cleared to play for the first time this season after recovering from a torn ACL. Cavallo is a player Girard said has put considerable time and energy into the program.
“These seniors have had a lot of success,” Girard said. “Every one of them has a different journey in terms of their path through Hopkinton High School football.”