Roger Brown's First & 10: On any given Thursday
Trevor Knight catches the ball Tuesday night during Nashua South's last practice before their Thanksgiving Day game against rival Nashua North in Nashua. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Thanksgiving Game CapsulesLawrence, Mass. (3-7) vs. Salem (3-6)
Wednesday (6 p.m.) at Salem High School
This is the fourth meeting between the Blue Devils and the Lancers, and Lawrence leads the series 2-1. Salem won the first meeting 44-38, but Lawrence posted a 46-28 victory in 2011 and a 28-0 win last year. … Junior quarterback Nelson Valerio is a player Salem will have to keep a close eye on tonight. Valerio threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in Lawrence's last game, a 28-26 victory over Peabody. Junior wide receiver Justin Rivera had eight receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns in that contest. … Senior running back Jason Martinez is Salem's top playmaker. Martinez has rushed for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. … Salem split end Jake Poore has 706 yards receiving and six TD catches.
Nashua North (3-6) vs. Nashua South (8-2)
Thursday (10 a.m.) at Stellos Stadium
This will be the 10th game in the Thanksgiving Day series, and South holds a 6-3 advantage. … South finished first in Division I West, but lost to Keene in the conference championship game. North did not qualify for the playoffs, but won three of its final four regular-season games. … South won the regular-season meeting, 35-27. South quarterback Trevor Knight passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in that victory. North QB Brendan Martin threw for two TDs and ran for two TDs in the loss. … North erased a 13-point deficit to win last year's game 14-13. Martin hooked up with Christian Filonow for a 13-yard touchdown pass that tied the game with 1:31 to play, and Kyle Regan added the point-after kick.
Manchester Central (7-3) vs. Trinity (8-3)
Thursday (10:15 a.m.) at Gill Stadium
This is the 33rd Annual Manchester Turkey Bowl, and the fourth time Central and Trinity of Manchester have met on Thanksgiving in as many years. Central had won the last four city championships until Trinity posted a 27-21 victory last year, when it turned four Central turnover into 20 points. It was the first time the Pioneers won the city title since 1997. … Both teams made the playoffs this season. Central lost to Concord 53-14 in the Division I North championship game. Trinity dropped an 18-14 decision to Portsmouth in the Division II semifinals. … Trinity scored at least 36 points in six of its eight victories. … Central running back Jesiah Wade rushed for 2,204 yards this season.
NASHUA SOUTH (8-2) made the Division I playoffs this season. Nashua North (3-6) did not.
Nashua South has perhaps the best offensive player in the state in quarterback Trevor Knight, and South beat North 35-27 during the regular season in a game that was more one-sided than the eight-point margin would indicate.
So how does North coach Jason Robie convince his team it can beat South on Thanksgiving morning? He shows them the film of last year's Thanksgiving Day game.
North didn't make the playoffs last season and dropped a regular-season game to a South team that made the Division I semifinals, but overcame a 13-point deficit to stun Knight-led South, 14-13, on Thanksgiving.
Robie can also point to the fact senior running back/defensive back Christian Filonow and junior running back/defensive back Dimitri Jackson both missed the regular-season game against South with injuries.
"They had a couple (touchdowns) called back during the regular-season game that kept things close, and we scored on the last play of the game," Robie said. "But anytime you get two teams in the same city the kids amp it up a little bit.
"Our biggest issue is we haven't played anybody in a month. We've never been off this long before Thanksgiving. It's a challenge for sure, but I think the kids are ready to go."
Thursday's game will be the 10th Thanksgiving Day contest between North and South. South, which used to play Bishop Guertin of Nashua on Thanksgiving, leads the series 6-3, and has beaten North in 13 of 20 overall meetings.
South coach Scott Knight (Trevor's father) said there's no chance his team will take its rival lightly Thursday.
"We're not going to have a problem getting them ready to play," Scott Knight said. "That's a non-factor. This is usually our second meeting (in the same season), so for one team it's a redemption game."
North's biggest challenge will be defending Knight, who will be on the University of New Hampshire's roster this time next year. Knight has passed for 1,577 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He's also run for 1,420 yards and 17 TDs.
"They're pretty good up front — pretty good run-stoppers," Scott Knight said. "They'll challenge us to throw and send some blitzes at us."
Robie said keeping the South offense off the field and limiting the number of big plays the Panthers produce are among the things North will have to do to give itself a chance to win.
"We definitely have our work cut out for us," Robie said. "It's a challenge, but I think the kids will be up for it."
Rob Pike will conclude his first season as Salem's head coach with a home game against Lawrence, Mass., tonight (6 p.m.). Salem went 3-6 during the regular season after going winless in 2012.
Salem hasn't played since it beat Londonderry 29-7 on Nov. 1.
"I wish we had done better from a record standpoint, but the kids continued to work hard to get better," Pike said. "We probably played our best game against Londonderry, and that's a good sign.
"I love playing a Thanksgiving game. If I had my preference I'd play on Thanksgiving. I'm a traditionalist."
Lawrence finished with a 3-7 record, but won three of its final five games after an 0-5 start.
"I like playing them because they're right over the border," Pike said. "They have good athletes and they're tough kids, but it's not like we're lining up against a team we have no shot against."
Manchester Central (7-3) will face Trinity of Manchester (8-3) in Thursday's 33rd Annual Manchester Turkey Bowl. Trinity knocked off Central 27-21 last year to win its first city championship since 1997. Here is each Manchester school's record in the Turkey Bowl:
Three Thanksgiving Day rivalries ended last year. The Merrimack/Souhegan of Amherst, Dover/Portsmouth and Spaulding of Rochester/Somersworth games that have been played on Thanksgiving in past seasons will not be played this year.
Souhegan finished with a 10-5 edge in its series against Merrimack; Dover won four of its seven meetings with Portsmouth; and Spaulding had a 3-2 edge over Somersworth.
Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.
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