Fitting for a potential series finale, it’s anybody’s game
On paper, this year's Thanksgiving Day match-up between Pilgrim and Warwick Vets looks like a mismatch.
But the game has defied the obvious far too many times over the years for this season's showdown to be that simple.
Both teams are expecting a battle.
"It's anybody's game," Pilgrim head coach Tom O'Connor said. "This will probably be the closest year, in the last four or five. They're probably favored, but I don't think by as much as they think they are."
Vets had a 4-3 Division II-A record and narrowly missed a playoff berth. Pilgrim meanwhile, ended up with an 0-7 record in Division II-B.
Comparing those records, the mismatch story line makes sense. But it's not that simple.
By any measure, Pilgrim played in the harder division. Two weeks ago, D-II-B swept all four playoff games against its D-II-A opponents. In crossover consolation games, D-II-B went a perfect 4-0 against D-II-A as well, giving II-B an 8-0 mark against the other side of the division.
"They're not a bad team," Vets senior Ricky Antonio said. "It's going to be a tough game. We have to play our best game of football."
Comparing common opponents, the teams also seem more even. Both teams lost to North Kingstown and West Warwick, with Pilgrim actually putting up a better fight in both games than Vets.
They each defeated Toll Gate as well, with Vets dominating the Titans and Pilgrim rallying for a win last week.
Plus, outside of this season, the rivalry has a history of producing close games despite differing regular season records. Two years ago, the Pats were eliminated from the playoffs in the final regular season game, only to lose to the one-win 'Canes on Thanksgiving. In 2007, winless Pilgrim beat undefeated Vets.
"In this rivalry, it's always better to be the underdog I think," O'Connor said. "They were undefeated one year, we had no wins and we beat them 7-6. You just never know who's going to show up. The kids dig deep."
This year, there's also added motivation. With a potential school closing on the horizon, Thanksgiving 2013 could be the last ever Pilgrim-Vets match-up.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Pilgrim but was moved to Vets in an effort to give the 'Canes a final home game if it turns out that Vets is the school that closes.
"The kids know, and being the last game as separate schools, you want to be the one that wins," Vets head coach Mike Nappa said. "Both teams will play just as hard as they can. Nothing else matters."
The 'Canes are led by quarterback Jesse Sedoma, fullback/linebacker David MacDonald and Kyle and Jeremy Morrissette, who do a little of everything. Pilgrim has gotten steady play out of quarterback Rob Quaine and a breakout season from sophomore running back Owen Kelly.
Who knows what to expect?
"We've got to see what happens," Nappa said. "Put the dice on the table and let it roll."
OUR PICK: Warwick Vets 20, Pilgrim 13
- Kevin Pomeroy