Forget that the Neumann-Goretti and South Philadelphia High football teams have losing records. A chance at the playoffs would’ve been a nice plus, but these neighborhood rivals are focusing on one thing �– a Thanksgiving Day victory.
After a year hiatus as the result of not having a home field, the Saints and Rams are ready to renew a shared holiday tradition that dates back to 1934. Alums making the trip to 10th and Bigler streets will notice a makeover at the facility — for starters, the decaying grass has been replaced with state-of-the-art turf.
"Playing in a multimillion-dollar stadium is a plus for both teams," Southern head coach Stosh Tunney said. "Even when it rains, [the field] is nice to play on."
But, of course, Tunney said he is looking for game-time temperatures to be in the mid-40s with sunshine.
For the annual meeting, with kickoff this year at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 27, Neumann-Goretti holds a commanding 51-19-3 advantage. The last victory for the boys from Broad and Snyder came four years ago with 30-26 �– their first since ’89. Southern will take the field tomorrow morning with a 4-6 mark, one win better than their Catholic League foe. In actuality, this is one of those games where both schools could be 0-10 or 10-0 and it would mean nothing. This one is for the South Philadelphia championship.
"After not playing the game last year, the team is very excited to resume this storied rivalry," Neumann-Goretti coach Bill Sytsma said. "After all, it is considered the ‘Battle for South Philly.’"
Tunney said, "it’s the biggest game of the year for both teams. I’ve been involved with it for five years. This one is special. This is a rivalry."
Both squads experienced their share of rough patches during the regular season. Southern is trying to end a four-game losing streak, which includes being shutout each of the last three weeks. The Saints finished 0-4 in their division and have scored just 91 points in 11 games. But the squad from 10th and Moore streets was young with 16 underclassmen in the starting lineup.
"Things have been disappointing, but lately it has been nice watching the young kids step up to a higher level with the seniors leading the way," Sytsma said. "As a reward, I am going to start every senior on Thanksgiving."
No matter who comes out on top, one player from each team will be awarded MVP honors sponsored by United Savings Bank, which has been involved with the trophy presentations since the early ’70s.
When the players and coaches take the field tomorrow morning, claiming bragging rights for the next year will be priority No. 1. There will be trash talkin’ between friends on opposing sidelines, but the coaches will have their athletes ready to do battle.
"I am sure they will be very prepared and playing with a strong will to win, and that is always dangerous," Sytsma said of Southern.
Tunney said he expects a good game and is hoping for favorable results.
"The turkey tastes a lot better when you win," he said with a laugh. SPR
All games played at 10th and Bigler streets
Communications Tech at Furness, 2:30 p.m.
Neumann-Goretti at Southern, 10:30 a.m.