STAMFORD — High School football has become a traditional staple of Thanksgiving Day.
The Westhill and Stamford football squads are happy to do battle Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Westhill’s J. Walter Kennedy Stadium.
The 2019 edition of the intracity rivalry features possession of the Frank Robotti Trophy (to the Westhill-Stamford victor. SHS has won the past two years). Stamford would also retain the Paul Kuczo Stamford City Football Championship Trophy with a victory (The Black Knights defeated Trinity Catholic/Wright Tech Co-op, 34-18 back on October 5).
A triumph would also give Stamford a 4-3 edge after the fall sports season in its newly-created year-long City Cup competition with Westhill.
“You always want to end a season on a positive note,” Stamford coach Jamar Greene said of his Black Knights (3-6). “A win on Thanksgiving Day makes the turkey taste better. We’d like to defeat Westhill three years in a row. It would also be something positive to build on for next year when the 30 juniors on our roster become seniors.”
Westhill enters at 1-8 overall. The Vikings’ lone triumph was a 14-8 Homecoming win over Central back on October 26.
“This contest is a tangible way to right a lot of wrongs that occurred this season,” said Westhill second-year coach Joe Devellis said. “This game is a way to put a positive stamp on a tough year for us.”
Football may be America’s Game. But Thanksgiving is also a time to pause and reflect.
“I’m thankful that our coaching staff cares so much about all our players. They can be father figures for some of us. It’s heartwarming to see a bond like that develop,” said Westhill senior tri-captain and defensive lineman Jakob Okun, who is playing his first year of football. “I’m thankful to play this amazing sport.
“I watched my younger brother Robert play his freshman football season last year. I’d pick him up after practice and I could see the football guys all smiling and having a great time,” Okun continued. “Robert would show me film of him playing. I could see how invested he was. When he asked me to come out for football this year, he didn’t have to ask twice.”
J. Walter Kennedy Stadium has also become a special place for Westhill junior center Matt Monterosso.
“A lot of people at school don’t have a good home to go to. This football program has taken the place of that,” Monterosso said. “The football team is a family. The program is a place of support for all. Things at school can be hard at times. But with this team, you get to do what you do best and you’re supported every moment.”
Vikings football is very special for Devellis as well.
“What I’m thankful for are guys who show up every day and buy in to what we are coaching. When that group becomes a majority, this football program culture will be completely turned around,” Devellis said. “The coaching staff sets the bar very high. I’m thankful for the guys who reach that bar of lofty expectations.”
The Black Knights are also thankful for their football family after a trying and emotional start to the season after the death of classmates in a car accident.
“I’m thankful for my teammates. We treat each other like brothers,” said Stamford junior offensive/defensive tackle Jimi Cosentino. “Thanksgiving Day football is exciting playing before a big crowd.”
“You can’t call just anybody family. I’m thankful for the ability to play football with a group I consider family,” said Stamford sophomore defensive tackle Walker Luncy. “It’s exciting to see the fans and support of a great rivalry game on Thanksgiving morning. Everybody is there for love. We dedicated our season to (the late) Nishawn Tolliver. We can work toward this one final reward.”
“I’m thankful for our seniors and all they have contributed,” Stamford coach Greene said. “We will try to win one more time for them.”