Salem (MA) Witches Football '07

Beverly/Salem remains the premier Thanksgiving football showdown on the North Shore

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Wednesday, November, 21 By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

Nothing to play for?

You say there's nothing to play for?

You obviously have no clue what the Beverly vs. Salem football rivalry is all about.

Take the records | both the visiting Panthers and host Witches enter tomorrow's game with identical 5-5 marks | and toss them aside. Literally.

What happened in the previous 10 games means nothing when these ancient adversaries separated by a pair of bridges meet on the gridiron. Come 10 a.m. tomorrow at Bertram Field in Salem, they'll mash helmets for the 109th time in a contest that needs no further explanation than by simply calling it "The Game".

After all, when Beverly and Salem collide on the football field, it is a one-game season unto itself. One team leaves the field ecstatic and undefeated in the only contest that truly matters to either of them; the other squad finds itself beaten and desolate.

Former Salem head coach Sean Gallagher | a one-time captain of the Witches' captain who, ironically, is now the principal at Beverly High | said with a completely straight face during his team's Super Bowl season of 1999 that it meant much, much more to him and his players to beat Beverly on the holiday than emerge victorious in the playoffs.

That statement might seem preposterous to those who haven't played in this rivalry or had its emotions run through their bloodstream each Thanksgiving.

But to those fortunate folks, no matter whether they wear the Black-and-Orange or chant 'The Witch is back!', they understand what Gallagher said completely.

The seventh-oldest continuous high school football rivalry in the state of Massachusetts, Beverly-Salem isn't merely a game; it's an event, a celebration of epic proportions in two cities each year on the fourth Thursday in November.

For four quarters, players from both sides battle between the lines for bragging rights they'll cherish 10, 20, even 50 years from now. Each year there are new heroes written into history, forever linked to the fabric of this most historic of contests.

Once the game is over, tears flow as freely as gravy onto turkey and mashed potatoes, whether you've won or lost. Contemplative seniors, suddenly realizing that they've in all likelihood played organized football for the last time, are hit with the magnitude of the moment, and their emotions spill out unabashedly like water out of a broken spigot.

So what are some of the plot lines we can look for tomorrow morning? Here are a few to chew on as you settle in among the 8,000 or so fans expected to be in attendance:

Nothing to play for? I beg to differ.

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