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. 

Raw Energy Returns

After last season’s restrictions, Presque Isle soccer teams thrive on their hometown support

It was a warm, late September’s night at the Presque Isle Middle School’s turf field, a rivalry girls game between Presque Isle and Caribou. Having ended regulation tied at 1 goal apiece, and now with 30 seconds to go in double overtime, a tie was all but inevitable. But Presque Isle had other ideas, as Olivia Kohlbacher banged home a rebound goal to win the game with 14 seconds remaining in the second overtime. The Presque Isle girls celebrated, having just stolen a win from their rivals. The large crowd roared for their hometown team’s exciting win. In any other season, the roar of a crowd after an exciting finish would have been a normal occurrence, void of any reflection and gratitude. But the year 2021 is not just any other soccer season.

A packed student section cheers on at a September 27th Girls game vs. Caribou- via Dave Allen.

In September of 2020, high school athletes across the state of Maine had no idea if they would have a sports season. It was during the height of the pandemic, and a vaccine seemed eons away. Finally, games were permitted to start in the last week of September with a number of restrictions for each fall sport. For soccer, those included mid-halftime sanitization breaks, wearing face coverings whenever not in the game, players who didn’t have their mouthguard in their mouth were sent off the field by officials. But most noticeably, a decrease in the number of fans. The limit was 100 people: this included players, coaches and officials. In Presque Isle, each player could invite two fans. This created an awkward atmosphere for home games. No doubt every school across the state of Maine and beyond felt this.

The raw energy of high school sports is an incomparable element. The passion for one’s hometown and high school creates tremendous atmospheres for student-athletes to play in. This brings communities together, arguably more than anything, at least in rural northern Maine. This energy was absent in 2020. But in 2021, with the pandemic hopefully in its waning stages, high school sports have seemingly found a return to normalcy. The overtime thriller between Presque Isle and Caribou was exactly what was missing from 2020. Student sections ruled again.