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Bragging rights on the line on Thanksgiving

Bragging rights on the line on Thanksgiving

FITCHBURG — The Fitchburg High football team has had a tremendous season, winning 7 games and advancing to the Central Mass. Division 4 championship game.

But none of that matters now.

gioIt’s all about the color blue on Thanksgiving morning.

Yes, everyone in Fitchburg knows what’s on the line when our Red Raiders tangle with archrival Leominster in the 138th meeting overall and 114th on Thanksgiving between these two storied programs on Thanksgiving morning.

“You always want to end the year on the victorious side, so it’s a big game,” Fitchburg coach Tom DiGeronimo said. “It’s a big game for the kids and that’s what it’s about. It’s about the players, the cheerleaders, the band and the student body.”

It’s always about the seniors, first and foremost, on Turkey Day.

“You want to send your seniors out definitely on the right side of the football,” DiGeronimo said, “and it’s huge for our community and it’s huge for going into the next year as far as building momentum.”

City pride is on the line. Around here, that’s a huge deal.

“This is bragging rights for the year,” DiGeronimo said. “It’s an exciting time for both communities.”

Fitchburg still remembers what happened in last year’s meeting -- a 36-0 loss at Doyle Field.

“The emotions that are going through us are revenge for last year and just carry on what we believe is the right way this tradition goes and it’s Fitchburg winning,” said senior linebacker Gio Marrone. “We want to come out strong and hard on every play.”

Added senior defensive back Dee Jones: “Let’s just try to come out on top like two years ago. Come out and play hard.”

Leominster enters the game at 4-6, but is playing its best football down the home stretch of the season.

Fitchburg knows this will be a challenge at historic Crocker Field at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.

“They are playing their best football right now, which is definitely the key,” DiGeronimo said. “They have played a brutal schedule all year. They play up a division on us. They will be ready to play, and they are going to give us their all. We know this is going to be a battle. They are battle tested in what they’ve played. They are a much larger school than we are and we know that. But our kids will be ready.”

Play with heart and pride. That’s the Fitchburg way.

“Our kids have gone above and beyond, but this is their mentality,” DiGeronimo said. “What’s made me most proud is the fact that they’ve played four quarters. We’ve been down and we’ve battled back in the second half. That’s a testament to them and our coaching staff. They’ve done a great job at halftime making adjustments and putting our kids in a position to come back or win football games after not playing as great in the first half. They like to battle. They like to play together and they’ll battle for four quarters.”

DiGeronimo says he hopes he and his coaching staff put the players in a good position to win the game.

“It’s about them,” he said. “I just want to make sure that I do a good job getting our kids ready to play and they go out and have fun, execute and know at the end of the game or a week from now that they gave it their all. That’s all that we ask for, that they play every play like it’s the last play you are going to play.”

DiGeronimo’s keys to victory are: “Obviously we have to tackle well,” he said. “That’s number one. We have to continue to tackle well, we can’t turn the ball over, we’ve got to reduce unnecessary penalties, and just be ready to play from the first whistle to the end.”

(By Fitchburg Public Schools Communications Coordinator Chad Garner)