The Lynn Tech football team has some exclusive bragging rights this Thanksgiving. While every other team in the area will be putting away their helmets and pads after Thursday, the Tigers will have another game to play.
After topping Franklin Tech in the vocational school semifinals Saturday, the Tigers earned a chance to play for the Massachusetts Vocational School Small title against Nashoba Valley on Nov. 30. Despite being bounced from the MIAA playoffs after a loss to Cathedral in the Division 8 North final, Tech still has an opportunity to bring a championship home to Lynn.
“After Thanksgiving, out of 324 teams, the majority are packing it in after Thursday’s game,” Tech coach James Runner said. “We’re one of the 20 or so teams who get to play for a championship. It’s pretty cool. We’re excited.”
In a year where there were plenty of storylines in Lynn football — four playoff teams, three undefeated regular seasons and a brand-new program — Runner can’t help but feel good about the fact that once Thursday has come and gone, the Tigers will be the team that represents the city in a championship game.
“It’s bittersweet, because (Classical) Coach (Brian) Vaughn and (English) Coach (Chris) Carroll are my good friends. (St. Mary’s) Coach (Matt) Durgin was my coach at Classical. And (KIPP) Coach (James) Rabbitt had a good run and some good wins at the end of the season,” Runner said. “I’m not taking away from any of those coaches and teams. I work hard and I’m a humble person, but it’s a good feeling because those teams will be putting everything away, and it’s kind of cool to move to the next level with the city embracing us.”
Since Tech has to look beyond Wednesday, they obviously are approaching this week differently than most teams. It’s been a tough schedule for Tech, playing Franklin Tech on Saturday and having a quick turnaround for Wednesday night’s game.
“We’ve done things with our schedule, kept kids off field, decrease sprinting and running…your game prep doesn’t change, just the duration of it does,” Runner said. “But we’ve also been able to utilize our younger players. We put them in backfield, allowed them to play if we have good leads. It’s good to get them experience.”
Runner is hoping those younger kids will get some experience during Wednesday night’s game as well. Now entering its third year as a Thanksgiving rivalry, the Tigers will look to claim their first win on Austin Prep’s home turf this Wednesday. Though the Cougars have had a down year at 1-9, Runner knows not to take them lightly.
“Austin Prep competes against a lot of (Commonwealth Athletic Conference) teams like Essex Tech, Northeast…they’re not a slouch team, they’re battle-tested,” Runner said. “(Cougars coach) Bill Maradei is a Hall-of-Fame-caliber coach and we respect the tradition. My seniors and team are very familiar with them.”
The last time Tech was at Father Seymour Field in Reading was the first time anyone had played on the field. Austin Prep won the inaugural game of the new rivalry, 43-26. The next year, Tech beat the Cougars by the same score at Manning.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we can go in there and rewrite history on that field,” Runner said. “They’ll be ready to play and we’re not holding anything back. We’ll go back there and hope the football gods put us in the right position to get some of our younger kids in.”
Tech will bring a little home field advantage to Reading, with the Lynn band making the trip.
As Runner prepares for a Thanksgiving Eve showdown and championship run, he knows he has a team of coaches with him that make everything possible.
“I’m very proud of my coaching staff,” he said. “We’re a brotherhood. We care about each other and the time and effort that goes into working with kids from the city of Lynn. We’re very lucky to have us all together.”