August 18, 2022

East Providence - LaSalle Rivalry About to Change?

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Will Tradition End Soon?

By Bob Rodericks

For the first time in the 86 year storied history of the East Providence - LaSalle rivalry, the two teams didn't play on Thanksgiving. Before the game, long time observers didn't know what to predict regarding fan attendance. Would devotees of both schools plan on attending Friday night's game as well as Thanksgiving Day? As it turned out, Townie fans turned out in big numbers. The East Providence side of Pierce Stadium was practically filled with just a small area at the far end of the South end zone empty. "It was a near Thanksgiving Day crowd," mused Pierce Field Manager Joe Medeiros as he surveyed the crowd. On the visitor's side the LaSalle fan attendance was much smaller. The small turnout of Ram fans may have been due to their feeling of confidence as they are having a strong year while the Townies are struggling.

The Townie and Rams will play again on Thanksgiving but the game will mean absolutely nothing in league standings. Last January the RI Interscholastic League Principal’s Committee on Athletics voted to change the state football playoff format. "Beginning in the fall (2014) all Thanksgiving Day “League games” must be played during the regular season. As a result, all semifinal games will be played on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The traditional Thanksgiving Day games will be played as in the past as “non- league” games. Divisional championship games will be played a minimum of seven days after Thanksgiving," said the league's full time director Tom Mezzanotte. Mezzanotte has also been recently appointed president of the National Federation of State High School Associations for 2014-15.

According to league officials, schools affected by this change are LaSalle Academy, East Providence High School, Cranston East High School, Cranston West High School, Scituate High School, North Smithfield High School, North Providence High School and Smithfield High School.

The new format is aimed at player safety in the league's eyes. There can be 3 games in 10 days around Thanksgiving with playoffs. "During the regular and post football season no football player is allowed to participate in more than 90 minutes of full contact during the week," said the league statement. "Only East Providence and LaSalle disagreed with this format. The rest of the league's Athletic Directors approved. They don't have the tradition that we have. It could mean the end of the LaSalle-EP Thanksgiving Day game as we know it," said East Providence Athletic Director, Bob Duarte. "They could have made other arrangements," Duarte added. The state's longest standing rivalry on Thanksgiving officially began in 1929. Although the two schools started turkey day play in 1927 (EP won 6-0), there was no game in 1928 and the league “started” in 1929 with a LaSalle 19-6 win. Unlike many of the other high school Thanksgiving Day rivalries in Rhode Island, the EP-LaSalle game often has direct impact on the state championship playoff system. Turkey Day may take on a whole new meaning in East Providence.

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