Holyoke, Chicopee will not have Thanksgiving football match-up

(Western Mass News file photo)

One-hundred years of tradition are over in a heartbeat. Chicopee High and Holyoke High will not play against each other on Thanksgiving this year.

It won't be long before high school football players put the pads on once again, but it won't be without some changes.

Chicopee High versus Holyoke, one of the longest running rivalries in western Massachusetts, is no more - at least not on Thanksgiving.

"There was a lot of reasons for changing the game," said Jim Blain, principal at Chicopee High School.

Blain told us that the change is based on scheduling, declining attendance on Thanksgiving, and the new football alignment set in stone by the MIAA, which now factors strength of schedule, moves Chicopee Comp from Division II to III, and Chicopee High from Division III to VII.

The game has also lost its luster over the years, being played after the league and state championships.

"They came at the end of a playoff run, instead of being for a league championship, or for birth in the playoffs, as they have done for years," Blain added.

Chicopee's 'Sword Game' against Chicopee Comp will now be played on Thanksgiving. It's a game where the winner receives a ceremonial Civil War sword made at home in Chicopee.

Holyoke will now play South Hadley in the 'Battle of the Bridge'.

Chicopee will still play Holyoke early in the season, on week two.

Chicopee alum Bruce Socha has been to hundreds of games in his lifetime and that won't change, but this change will take time.

"Anything that has to do with tradition seems to have to be swept under the carpet, and I don't go for that. That's what keeps people coming back," Socha explained.

Holyoke players and coaches love the idea of starting something new, something they hope can create many iconic moments for decades to come.

"I think just playing on Thanksgiving will make it that more special," said Joe Dutsar, Holyoke High's head football coach.

Dutsar is gearing up his guys for a new rivalry in the making.

"They're embracing the new change. In fact, some of them prefer to play South Hadley in the 'Battle of the Bridge,'" Dutsar added.

The teams head coaches understand both sides and look forward to the competition.

South Hadley head coach Scott Taylor added if the game has a name, it's important and now, there are two games with names on Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2017 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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