The Thanksgiving Day Football Game

How a backyard football game became an

unbreakable tradition

     Football on Thanksgiving is not a novel idea. The NFL has held games on Thanksgiving since 1934. Seeing the Cowboys and Lions play on Thanksgiving is just another thing that makes the holiday. Like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football is engrained into the day itself. For two brothers from rural West Buxton, Maine, football on Thanksgiving is a little bit more than that. Luke Boyd (19) and Jake Boyd (17) have been playing against each other in a game of touch football since 2014. Every year, the same two teams play against each other. Luke is the captain of the Patriots; Jake, the leader of the Broncos. Why those two teams? The answer is simple: those were the only two jerseys the brothers owned. In 2014 for the first game, Luke donned a Tom Brady jersey, while Jake threw on a Tim Tebow Broncos jersey. Seven years later and those team names have stuck. 

Luke makes a fingertip catch over his little brother in the second quarter of the 2015 game (Photo by: Emily Boyd)

     Luke and Jake have always held Thanksgiving with cousins from far away. This provided a perfect opportunity to have some fun with family they rarely got to see. For the first game in 2014, the weather did not cooperate. It was 19 degrees at kickoff, with 20 mile per hour gusts. They shoveled and snow blew the field the morning of the game. At the time, Luke was only 12, and Jake just 10. Never would they dream that they’d be preparing to play again in 2021 with the same giddy feeling they had as young kids.

Jake (left) makes an amazing catch in the 2020 game, as Luke (right) prepares to tackle his brother. (Photo by: Emily Boyd)

     “It only happens once a year. No matter how old you get, you can get excited for things,” Luke said. “The anticipation of the game is always exciting.” For one day a year, they can feel like professional athletes, playing in front of their large family and extended friends. Their siblings and cousins help video record and edit to post the full game on YouTube each year. They also spray paint the field to look just like an NFL field. PVC-pipe goal posts and official end-zone pylons are just a few of the staples that the players see every year. 

     The brothers and their relatives held the first two games in Presque Isle. After the game was canceled in 2016, it was moved down to southern Maine, and they painted a much bigger field in Buxton for the 2017 contest. Teams expanded from just a 2 on 2 game in 2015, to 5 on 5 in 2017. Jake Boyd’s Broncos won the first two contests in 2014 and 2015 by scores of 41-13 and 18-9. But since that move to West Buxton, Luke’s Patriots have won ever since. Most recently in 2020, the Patriots won by a very close score of 51-44. Although it may seem lighthearted in nature on the surface, the heart and desire that comes with competition always comes out in the players. Heartbreaking losses can also stick with the players as they have to wait a whole year before they get a chance to redeem themselves.