CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) – As with any ordinary Thanksgiving, there is a tradition of watching or playing football. On Thursday, the two Chicopee high schools faced each other as part of an annual holiday tradition.
Before the Thanksgiving NFL games, Chicopee Comp High School had business to attend to.
Both the Chicopee High Pacers and Chicopee Comp Colts were all in excitement this Thanksgiving day as the annual rivalry known as the Sword Game came into full swing. Dozens of students and alumni gathered Thursday morning to watch a game that has been going on since 1964.
“We used to play for the sword in the regular season. For the past five years we’ve played Thanksgiving, and I think it needs a little more meaning to play for the sword on Thanksgiving,” said Graham Raymond, Chicopee Comp head coach.
While the Colts were looking to continue their dominance in this rivalry, the Pacers were looking to win the mayor’s sword for the first time since 2012. Chicopee High senior center Jahiem Thompson played in his third and final sword game.
He calls it a special event from everyone in town.
“Everybody come out. It’s like a big deal in this town. Everyone comes before a good meal later in the night. It’s been around since my coach was born. I know it’s special, so I just give it my all,” he said.
The winner of the game receives an 1890s sword from the town mayor. Thompson also called this game the Super Bowl of Chicopee. And the students and alumni who filled the stands made that feeling a reality. One spectator, Heather Johnson, watched her son Noah, a freshman at Chicopee Comp, play his first sword game. She also admitted that her other son, Trevor, was quarterback at Chicopee Comp a few years ago. She humorously gave this warning to Noah before kick-off.
“I told him he’d better keep the sword or Thanksgiving dinner is going to be tough for him… That’s the most exciting thing. I am the quintessential soccer mom. The things I tell aren’t always the most appropriate, so I’ll do my best here. But I’m my son’s biggest fan and I love all these guys. I’m happy about every number in the team.”
While this was the final game of the season for both programs, it was also a public holiday. Pacers head coach Alex Efstratios says this game has a different meaning when played on Thanksgiving. He wanted his players to give everything they have regardless of who wins.
“As long as you play hard and give your 100% effort, both coaches will be fine with that. I can handle it. And I just want the kids to… play hard and come out knowing they’re giving 100% and whatever happens, happens,” he said.
No matter who wins or loses, players and coaches have a lot to thank for.
“I am grateful for my mother, my family, my siblings, my coaches, my friends and most of all my teammates. They always understood me and made sure I was on the right track,” Thompson said.
“I’m just grateful that (my players) are showing up and doing their best and trying to grow as players but also as people,” Raymond said.
With the city’s bragging rights at stake, all players, coaches and spectators were excited to celebrate Thanksgiving and the sport they love. Chicopee Comp gets to keep the sword for one more year with a final score of 28-10.
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