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Thanksgiving Pigskin Tradition Fights Through Adversity

WESTFIELD, Mass (WGGB) –

There are some western Massachusetts traditions that simply scream Thanksgiving, and the Westfield High School-Cathedral High School football game is one of them.

“Football is almost synonymous with Cathedral. We’ve been playing this game against Westfield for years I’ve asked people how did we ever start playing against Westfield and nobody can give me an answer but everybody knows we do it,” Cathedral Principal John Miller said.

The historical matchup started in 1944 but hasn’t been easy of late. The June 2011 tornado ruined Cathedral’s school, including the football field. The past two years, the Panthers joined forces with Holyoke Catholic and Sabis high schools to field enough players for a team.

“The kids made some really good friendships and we’ve pulled together as best that we can,” Cathedral mother Christine Leblanc said.

Thanksgiving means one final game for football moms on both sides to cheer on their boys.

“It’s a little sad. You know, we’re here to support the team and celebrate and we’re thankful for all the good times that we’ve had,” Leblanc said.

“All the Bomber moms got together last night, you know we just root for our kids, we’re here, it’s awesome,” Westfield mom Jackie Sullivan said.

For well over the 50 years, the traditions here in Westfield extend well beyond the football game. From alumni to the cheerleaders to the band, most say win or lose, there’s no better way to start Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s almost a social event as much as it is a football game too,” Westfield High alum Billy Smith said. “You get to see everyone you haven’t seen in a long time.”

“It’s bittersweet,” Westfield senior cheerleader Courtney Leonard said. “I’m kind of glad that I’m a senior graduating, but I’m going to miss it.”

“I like how we’re are all really close. I mean, we all have the same personalities-we’re really loud and outgoing so we just get along really well,” fellow Westfield Senior Shelena Nieves said. “We click!”

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