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Avon to play Thanksgiving football for first time this fall against rival Gilbert/NWR – The Collinsville Press
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Avon to play Thanksgiving football for first time this fall against rival Gilbert/NWR

Gilbert/NWR's Tyler Schmidt (65), Mark Lapinski (57) and John Lippincott (14) can't bring down Avon's Jimmy Murphy, who escaped and ran 70 yards for a touchdown.

Avon will play its first Thanksgiving Day football game in November when they host Gilbert/Northwestern. Last fall, Avon’s Jimmy Murphy escaped to score a 70-yard touchdown.

AVON – For the first time in its history, the Avon High football team will play football on Thanksgiving this fall. The Falcons are scheduled to host rival Gilbert/Northwestern on Thursday morning, Nov. 27 at 10:30 a.m.

“There is nothing like the atmosphere of a Thanksgiving Day football game,” Avon High football coach Jim Caouette said. “It brings so much out of the kids and the fans. It is really a tremendous thing for high school football.” 

In its 54-year history, Avon has never played on Thanksgiving or even on the week of Thanksgiving. They are one of the few schools in the state that has never played played on Thanskgiving. 

From 1970 through 1995 and 1998 through 2005, the Falcons ended the season with a game against Farmington. Beginning in the 1980s, the game was played on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. As members of the Pequot Conference (1996-97, 2006-present), the Falcons played their final regular season on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. 

Caouette wanted to play a Thanksgiving game and he found a willing opponent in Gilbert/Northwestern. 

Since 1983, the Yellowjackets have been playing Housatonic/Wamogo for the Berkshire Bowl trophy on Thanksgiving morning. But with Housatonic dropping its varsity program in 2014 due to a low number of players, Gilbert/NWR had an open date. 

The rivalry between Avon and Gilbert/NWR has become a spirited event. The Yellowjackets have won three of the last four meetings between the two schools. In 2010, Gilbert/NWR’s 7-0 win in the season finale kept Avon out of the CIAC playoffs. 

Last fall, Avon nearly erased a 22-point deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the final 7:09 but lost to the Yellowjackets, 34-33. Avon scored on the final play of the game but went for a two-point conversion pass that was intercepted to seal Gilbert’s victory. That helped keep Avon (8-3) out of the CIAC playoffs, too. 

“We’re going to do this right,” Caouette said. “It will be Senior Day and we’ll try to reach out to as many alumni as we can. It will be great for the school and alumni and an opportunity to see family and friends.” 

With Avon’s move to the Central Connecticut Conference in September 2015, this Thanksgiving rivalry with Gilbert may be just a one-year arrangement. Housatonic hopes to resurrect its varsity program in 2015. Perhaps, Avon can resume its end-of-season rivalry with Farmington in the CCC. 

But for now, both schools are excited about the upcoming Thanksgiving Day contest. 

Avon will finish the 2014 season against three teams that posted winning records a year ago and the three teams that beat them in 2013. 

The final three opponents for Avon will be Valley Regional/Old Lyme, which went 12-1, won the Pequot Southern Division and advanced to the Class M semifinal, Canton, which went 7-4 and beat Avon for the first time ever, and Gilbert/Northwestern, which went 9-3 to win the Pequot Western Division and earn a spot in the Class M playoffs. 

“Those were all games we could have won (last year),” Caouette said. “When you get to play teams the like of Valley Regional, Canton and Gilbert (to close out the season), it sets the table of where your football program is.” 

Avon opens the season by hosting Ellington/Somers in week 1 (Sept. 12/13). That is followed by contests at Granby (Sept. 19/20), against Stafford/East Windsor (Sept. 26/27) at home, at SMSA/University (Oct. 3/4), hosting Enfield (Oct. 11/12), at North Branford (Oct. 17/18), at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton (Oct. 24/25) and hosting Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby (Oct. 31/Nov. 1). 

The game against Valley Regional/Old Lyme (Nov. 7/8) is at home with the game at Canton (Nov. 14/15) on the road. 

REALIGNMENT IN PEQUOT: With Housatonic dropping its varsity program due to a low number of players, the Pequot Conference modified its schedule and divisions. A year ago, the Pequot moved to a three division format with seven teams in each division (West, North, South). 

With 20 teams, the league is moving back to its two division format (Uncas and Sassacus) that the Pequot used from 1993 to 2012. 

Avon is back in the Uncas Division with Canton, Granby, Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby, Ellington/Somers, Gilbert/Northwestern, Enfield, Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton, Stafford/East Windsor and SMSA/University. 

The Sassacus Division will be North Branford, Cromwell, Morgan, Haddam-Killingworth, Valley Regional/Old Lyme, Nonnewaug, Old Saybrook/Westbrook, Coginchaug, Lewis Mills and Hyde. 

Each team will play nine games against their divisional opponents and two games against teams from the opposite division.

AVON
Week 1: Sept. 12/13: ELLINGTON/SOMERS
Week 2: Sept. 19/20: at Granby
Week 3: Sept. 26/27: STAFFORD/EAST WINDSOR
Week 4: Oct. 3/4: at SMSA/University
Week 5: Oct. 10/11: ENFIELD
Week 6: Oct. 17/18: at North Branford
Week 7: Oct. 24/25: at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton
Week 8: Oct. 31/Nov. 1: WINDSOR LOCKS/SUFFIELD/EAST GRANBY
Week 9: Nov. 7/8: VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME
Week 10: Nov. 14/15: at Canton
Week 11: Nov. 27: GILBERT/NORTHWESTERN

CANTON
Week 1: Sept. 12/13: at SMSA/University
Week 2: Sept. 19/20: at Stafford/East Windsor
Week 3: Sept. 26/27: ELLINGTON/SOMERS
Week 4: Oct. 3/4: at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton
Week 5: Oct. 10/11: at Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby
Week 6: Oct. 17/18: MORGAN
Week 7: Oct. 24/25: ENFIELD
Week 8: Oct. 31/Nov. 1: at Gilbert/Northwestern
Week 9: Nov. 7/8: at Hyde
Week 10: Nov. 14/15: AVON
Week 11: Nov. 27: GRANBY

GRANBY
Week 1: Sept. 12/13: WINDSOR LOCKS/SUFFIELD/EAST GRANBY
Week 2: Sept. 19/20: AVON
Week 3: Sept. 26/27: at SMSA/University
Week 4: Oct. 3/4: at Enfield
Week 5: Oct. 10/11: COVENTRY/WINDHAM TECH/BOLTON
Week 6: Oct. 17/18: at Nonnewaug
Week 7: Oct. 24/25: at Stafford
Week 8: Oct. 31/Nov. 1: at Ellington/Somers
Week 9: Nov. 7/8: OLD SAYBROOK/WESTBROOK
Week 10: Nov. 14/15: GILBERT/NORTHWESTERN
Week 11: Nov. 27: at Canton

LEWIS MILLS
Week 1: Sept. 12/13: at Hyde
Week 2: Sept. 19/20: VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME
Week 3: Sept. 26/27: at North Branford
Week 4: Oct. 3/4: at Coginchaug
Week 5: Oct. 10/11: HADDAM-KILLINGWORTH
Week 6: Oct. 17/18: at Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby
Week 7: Oct. 24/25: MORGAN
Week 8: Oct. 31/Nov. 1: CROMWELL
Week 9: Nov. 7/8: STAFFORD/EAST WINDSOR
Week 10: Nov. 14/15: at Old Saybrook/Westbrook
Week 11: Nov. 27: at Nonnewaug

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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