H.S. Football: Franklin Tech, Smith Voc set for 4th Thanksgiving Day meeting

  • Franklin Tech’s Josiah Little carries the ball against Smith Vocational during the 2021 Thanksgiving meeting in Turners Falls. The rivals meet on Thanksgiving in Northampton this year. Staff FILE Photo/Paul Franz

  • Smith Vocational running back Jonathan Loiko (48) runs for a first down against Murdock earlier this season. The Vikings host Franklin Tech on Thanksgiving morning. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2022 7:15:51 PM
Modified: 11/23/2022 7:15:40 PM

The fourth installment of the Franklin Tech-Smith Vocational Thanksgiving Day football rivalry kicks off Thursday. 

Both the Eagles and Vikings are looking to end their season on a high note and build momentum heading into the 2023 season when the two squads hit the field in Northampton on Turkey Day, with kickoff scheduled for 10 a.m. 

With Thanksgiving games dwindling around the state, both teams said they’re pleased to have this game to look forward to all season. 

“At our team meeting on Monday, we reminded everyone that we're guaranteed one game every year that’s for a trophy,” Smith Vocational coach Alex Subocz said. “That’s this week. It doesn’t matter how many wins you have during the year, you just have to win this one to get a trophy.”

It’s been all Franklin Tech since Smith Vocational won the opening Thanksgiving contest between the two schools. The Vikings captured the initial installment in 2018, 24-14, but the Eagles followed it up with a 20-0 victory in 2019 and after not having a game in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Franklin Tech won last year’s matchup, 32-16. 

“We’re going to try to hang on to this tradition for as long as we can,” Eagles coach Joe Gamache said. “It’s been good so far. They won one and we’ve won the last two. It’s been a healthy Thanksgiving rivalry.” 

“It’s still growing into the rivalry stage,” Subocz concurred. “It’s getting there. Each year it gets stronger. I’m incredibly thankful we have a matchup. Being able to have a Thanksgiving game is great.” 

It’s been an up-and-down season for Franklin Tech (3-7), which opened things up with a 44-0 win over McCann Tech but dropped its next two non-league games to Chicopee and Groton-Dunstable.

The Eagles then opened league play with a win against Mahar, but it would be their lone Intercounty League North victory. Franlin Tech also won a non-playoff contest against Bartlett to get to four wins.

“The hope is we can close this out with a win,” Gamache said. “We have eight seniors who are going to try to close out their high school football days in style with a victory.”

While Smith Vocational (1-9) hasn’t gotten the results on the scoreboard, Subocz said he is still seeing progress from his young team.

The Vikings’ lone win of the season came against McCann Tech, a 40-20 win in Northampton. Playing mostly underclassmen, Subocz said he hopes this year can be a building block for the future for his squad.

“Record wise this season isn’t where we want to be,” Subocz said. “We’re playing a lot of sophomores and the skill development is where we want it to be. Coming into the year we expected it to take some time.”

If Smith Vocational is hoping to avoid a repeat of last Thanksgiving, it will need to have a plan for stopping Franklin Tech running back Josiah Little. The sophomore had a monster Turkey Day last fall, entering the game needing 249 yards on the ground to reach the 1,000 yard milestone on the season. 

He did just that. Little dashed for 118 yards in the first half and added 134 yards in the final 24 minutes of action, giving him 252 yards on the day to be named the game’s MVP. Slowing him down will be the first order of business.

“Our kids are very excited about it,” Alex Subocz said. “Their running back is back and he had a monster game against us last year. Making sure we contain him will be priority one for us.” 

Little has the chance to once again break the 1,000-yard rushing mark on Thanksgiving, as the sophomore sits 75 yards shy of the milestone. 

Eagles quarterback Gabe Tomasi has the chance to break a few program records on Thursday. He sits 74 yards shy of breaking the Franklin Tech single-season passing yard record, four completions shy of the single-season completion record, and four passing touchdowns shy of the single-season record — all of which were set by Owen Bashaw in 2019. 

Defensively Landen Hardy needs 15 tackles to break Kyle Johnson’s single-season record of 115 with the Eagles. 

“The number one priority is to win the football game,” Gamache said. “We have a few individuals chasing some milestones and single season records. It’d be nice if we could knock a couple of those off as long as we can also take care of the victory. The primary concern is winning the game against a good Smith Voc team.” 

Stopping the Viking offense comes down to containing quarterback Alex Martinez. The junior is in his third year as the Smith Vocational signal caller and the entire offense revolves around his skill set. 

“Alex has been the engine of our offense at quarterback,” Subocz said. “As long as he’s moving around the pocket and throwing it, we feel we can compete with anyone we played this year.” 


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