Special Feature: Thanksgiving Game Plan

Beverly High football coaching legends Roy Norden (center) and Bill Hamor (right) with current athletic director Red Hutt (left). » Mark Lorenz, Staff Photographer

Norden grid bred in Thanksgiving gridiron tradition

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Thursday, November, 15 By Bill Kipouras
Staff writer

Roy Norden never planned to be part of two of the greatest Thanksgiving Day football rivalries in the state of Massachusetts.

He grew up in the Roslindale section of Boston and enrolled at Boston English High School | but not with playing football in mind. He knew it was a 10- to 12-mile trolley ride to school, but was totally unaware of the school's rich football tradition. He admits he was "rather naive, but soon learned."

He went on to become an All-Scholastic at English as a tackle, was named to all of the postseason all-star teams in the metro Boston area and was part of his team's great holiday rivalry with Boston Latin, the oldest high school football rivalry in the state. He said he still has the game ball from his final game vs. English.

As an adult, Norden became a football coach and wound up leaving a legacy at Beverly High School. He coached the Panthers from 1959-74, later became the school's athletic director and is in the BHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

Norden also guided his team to eight wins in 16 tries against arch rival Salem High in what is simply known in North of Boston high school football circles as "The Game", the oldest and grandest Thanksgiving game in the area.

Now 82 years old and recovering from his second stroke | but still with his infectious laugh | Norden rates as the only person to have been involved in two of the oldest Thanksgiving rivalries of all time. English and Latin, which began playing in 1887, is the oldest continuous high school football rivalry in the U.S.

Beverly and Salem began their annual Turkey tussle four years later in 1891 and will meet for the 109th time this Thanksgiving morning at Bertram Field in Salem. It is the fourth longest holiday battle in the Commonwealth.

For Norden, it was his education | not his blocking and tackling | was the sensible priority of his late parents, Harry and Helen Norden, and the reason he enrolled at Boston English.

"It was one of the outstanding schools in Boston," Norden recalled. "It was an all-boys school (where you went for) three years. The Thanksgiving Day English-Latin football games were played at Braves Field, and they were all sellouts back then."

He got to play at English under the famed Bill Ohrenberger, a well-known Boston College alumnus who later was the Superintendent of Schools in Boston. Among the notables who were Norden's teammates at English was Ed King, who went on to become governor.

Although it wasn't his primary purpose when he enrolled at English, Norden wound up with a football scholarship to Boston College after a military hitch that took him to the South Pacific war zone.

Fast forward to his head coaching days at Marlboro High School, where Norden was a huge success before applying and getting the head post in Beverly, where the legendary Charlie Walsh had just retired as head coach in 1959.

"I didn't know anyone in Beverly," Norden said. "I was just one X among the candidates, but I did make some phone calls to see what Beverly was all about. I was thrilled when I got the job there."

There are some other long-standing rivalries in the North of Boston area that make one of the state's greatest traditions of schoolboys playing football on the holiday, which goes back to the 19th century.

The Newburyport-Amesbury rivalry has the same starting date as Beverly-Salem (1891), as they began their holiday feuds in 1915. The rivalry includes several unsanctioned games between 1891 and 1914.

The 84-year rivalry (which Newburyport leads, 44-34-6) includes a 99-7 victory in 1951 for the aforementioned Clippers | that found them going for a conversion pass to make it 101 after their final touchdown. Legend has it that Salem native Tony Tassinari, the Amesbury coach for that game, was in line for a job as an assistant coach at Boston College, but ruined his invitation with that bombardment.

Other long-standing state public school rivalries are Wellesley-Needham, which dates back to 1882, making it the oldest such rivalry in the country; Medford-Malden (1889), Durfee-New Bedford (1893), Fitchburg-Leominster (1893) and Falmouth-Barnstable (1895).

The Marblehead-Swampscott rivalry is no spring chicken, either. Game No. 102 will be played this Thanksgiving morning in a series that began in 1909. There were two games each year between 1909-11, making next year's clash the 100th on the holiday. Marblehead retains the series lead, 48-46-7.

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