If some had their way, Thanksgiving Day football in Pennsylvania would be relegated to CYO games and watching the NFL on TV. The high school version would go the way of the leather helmet, the single wing offense and people who work in the retail industry having off for our national day of thanks.

And that's too bad because those poor, misguided souls, mostly in the western part of the state where the playoffs are king, just don't get it.

There is no better tradition than high school football on Thanksgiving Day. Football coaches preach about tradition all the time, yet Thanksgiving Day football is all about tradition.

It's a chance for communities to come together, old friends to reconnect in person, not on Facebook or some other form of social media, and the chance to pass this tradition from one generation to the next. It's also about bragging rights. The winner gets to walk a little taller until the next Thanksgiving Day game.

"You throw the turkey in the oven, go to the game, come back, have dinner and talk about the day,' Chichester coach Ryan Smith said. "It's all about community and family.'

And friendship, too.

The coaching staffs from Upper Darby and Haverford get together the morning of the game for breakfast at the Perkins restaurant on Lansdowne Avenue across the street from Upper Darby High School. Then they go and try to beat one another.


Can you imagine the coaching staffs from two teams in the playoffs sharing a meal the day of the game?

No. It would never happen.

"I love that they do that,' Smith said. "I think that's a great tradition. It ties everything together.'

Yet there are those who would like to see these time-honored traditions end because of the state playoffs. If some had their way, the football season would start the weekend before Labor Day weekend — not to add an extra game to the regular season, but to lengthen the playoffs.

Thank God we still have three Thanksgiving Day games in Delaware County. There used to be more, but school closures and district mergers have whittled the Thanksgiving Day field down to Upper Darby against Haverford, Ridley versus Interboro, and Sun Valley facing Chichester.

And that's a shame. A lot of players today don't get to experience what the kids from Haverford, Upper Darby, Ridley, Interboro, Sun Valley and Chi will experience today.

Smith has lived it as both a player and coach, albeit on different sidelines. He played at Sun Valley and now coaches Chi. That has to make for some interesting conversation when he gets together with his high school buddies.

"Oh yeah, they rib me pretty good,' Smith said. "They say, ' Oh, you went over to the Chi side.' It's all in good fun.'

It is those games within the game that makes Thanksgiving football special. Unfortunately, because of the playoffs, some of the games are no longer annual affairs. This is the first time Ridley and Interboro are playing on Thanksgiving since 2011 and only the fourth meeting in the last eight years because of playoffs.

"I wish there was a way we could hold the playoffs for a week so we could play the Thanksgiving games,' Interboro coach Steve Lennox said. "A lot of our kids played with Ridley kids on the (Prospect Park) Termites. I've had a couple of guys go to college and room with Ridley kids. People plan their whole holiday around the game. It's an automatic reunion and then you go home and have dinner.'

"It has lost a little bit of its luster because of the playoffs,' Ridley coach Dennis Decker said. "Our goal every year is to win the Central League, then win the district title. Back when I played, it was win the Central League and beat Interboro.

"I don't want to say it's an afterthought because it's not. It's an important game for our school, our community and our kids, especially for the seniors. As I reminded them, this is the last time they'll wear that green uniform with the R on the helmet. And I want them to go out like their fathers did, and for some their grandfathers, and enjoy the game for what it is, a great game with a great tradition.'

Let's hope it continues.To contact Terry Toohey, email ttoohey@delcotimes.com. Follow him on Twitter, @TerryToohey.