Thanksgiving football tradition gets reborn at Philadelphia high school

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Thanksgiving football tradition gets reborn at Philly high school
Martin Luther King High School drummed up excitement for the first Thanksgiving Football Classic in nearly a decade!

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "Thankful is an understatement for what I am with these young men," said Martin Luther King High School football coach Malik Jones. "You know, being able to come back to my alma mater and provide opportunities and experience for young people who may otherwise not have those opportunities."

One such opportunity is the chance to ring in an old tradition for a new generation. This morning, MLK High School in East Germantown celebrated its first Thanksgiving Classic in nearly a decade.

Dating back to the 1970s, the tradition typically involved a parade and ended with a football match between famous rivals, MLK High School and Germantown High School. However, when Germantown shut down in 2013 and merged with its rival, MLK was left without a consistent adversary.

Since then , hundreds of students cycled in and out of the school without experiencing the excitement. But the Association of Alumni wanted to reintroduce it to a new generation.

Luckily for them, Olney High School had recently been introduced to the public school system. Now that MLK had a new rival to face on Thanksgiving Day, the school community thought the pomp and circumstance should return.

"We definitely hope to build a budding rivalry with Olney and try to get some of that same energy that we had back with the Germantown/King rivalry game," said Coach Jones.

The day began with members of the color guard, JROTC, cheerleading squad, and more marching down Mansfield Avenue to the sound of drums beating and cars honking. Upon arrival at Benjamin L Johnston Memorial Stadium, they rallied the crowd until the game began.

"We do a lot of walks, peace walks, but this is different," said Principal Keisha Wilkins. "This is a celebration of a legacy of greatness."

In the future, Wilkins hopes to expand the parade to be more representative of the entire community surrounding MLK High School.

"The parade this year probably has about seven entities outside of the school," she said. "We'd like to have everybody in the Northwest Community, all of the high schools, all of the elementary schools represented just so we can show how great and bold we are as a Northwest Community."

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