Thanksgiving Day football game to be played north of the border
The Thanksgiving Day football game between Woodstock Academy and Killingly will be played at Vendetti Field at Nichols College in Dudley, MA.
The game is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 24 at 10:30 a.m.
“Honestly, that hadn’t even crossed my mind,” Woodstock Academy football coach and athletic director Sean Saucier said with a laugh when asked if it will feel odd for the annual Thanksgiving Day game between two rival Connecticut high schools to be played in Massachusetts. “It’s local. Nice short drive for both schools with a good facility, a nice turf field, and it’s a local college. It will be neat.”
The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Bentley Athletic Complex at Woodstock Academy but, with a large turnout expected, that could be problematic.
“As our football program has grown and improved, we’ve seen a much larger interest. If you look at the last time we played Killingly, we had no parking left. It was almost to the point where it was a safety issue. When you look at last year when we played at Killingly, there was a lot of fans there,” said Woodstock Academy head of school Chris Sandford. “For us to maintain the relationship with Killingly, which we all want to do, we needed to find a better location that can host it.”
The Bentley Complex has only two dirt parking lots that quickly filled in 2019, forcing fans of the game to find parking in other locations.
Nichols College was an obvious alternate choice as it is just under nine miles and 20 minutes away from the Bentley Athletic Complex.
“It will also be exciting for a high school athlete to play in a college environment. The locker rooms are different than either school currently has. There is VIP space for us to possibly do an event at and for us, collectively, I think it’s a good partnership to have,” Sandford said.
After talking over the parking situation, Saucier began to look for alternate sites and Nichols looked attractive.
“It was driven by the need for space especially if we draw the crowd that we did last year (at Killingly) and Bentley doesn’t have the space for that,” Saucier said. “We thought about other locations and Nichols popped up and the college was gracious enough to allow us to come. It will be awesome.”
It could also be beneficial to Nichols, according to Saucier, as it will expose a host of local football players and potential college students to the school’s campus and facilities. There is also the likelihood that the Nichols coaching staff won’t have to go far to do a little scouting of its own for potential future recruits.
It may also be a little less stressful on Saucier who would be in charge of not only the game on the field on Thanksgiving Day, but also the facility if the game were to be played at Bentley.
“I think a lot of the responsibilities are still there and we will have plenty of help but the stress of where will everyone park and controlling that is alleviated. It takes away some of the logistical stress so it seems like it will be easier, even without knowing all of the details of what it will entail at Nichols. The fact that I know that we won’t have the obstacles that we have at Bentley is refreshing,” Saucier said.
Saucier added Killingly was happy with the arrangement.
“They said it sounded good and to do whatever was best for the kids and the community. To allow the community to come and make it as easy as possible on everyone. For example, we don’t have a ton of handicap parking and you could be in for a long walk at Bentley,” Saucier said.
Saucier also pointed out that Bentley also has stands on only one side of the field and being able to separate the two school’s fans may also be better for the atmosphere of the game.