It may be the third week of January but the biggest story of the year may already have arrived: the Lynn English and Lynn Classical football teams will not meet in an intra-conference regular season game this fall.
That’s one of the quirks of the newly aligned Northeastern Conference and the new state playoff system that goes into effect for the 2013 season.
English and Classical will play on Thanksgiving morning but the traditional holiday meeting would not count toward either team’s playoff chances. The sectional playoffs involving eight qualifying teams will be held before Thanksgiving.
Why the match-up with no playoff implications and only for bragging rights?
Because this fall English will play in the NEC upper division with Beverly, Marblehead, Swampscott, and Gloucester while Classical will play in the lower division with Peabody, Revere, Danvers, Salem, and Winthrop. The principals of the NEC schools voted to align the divisions based on power, meaning the teams’ cumulative records over the past few years. There are only 11 NEC schools as a result of Saugus High’s decision to join the Cape Ann League.
English athletic director Gary Molea and Classical athletic director Bill Devin addressed the issue in separate interviews.
“We won’t be playing Classical for the league championship; we’ll be playing them for Thanksgiving purposes only,” said Molea. “We’re upset that we’re not playing Classical in a league game. That game should be for something. It’s a great tradition. The game will only be for bragging rights.”
Molea said that even if English and Classical had been in the same division of the NEC, the two schools would likely have not played the game (originally scheduled for Week 3 of the season) and met only on Thanksgiving. According to Molea, the chances of making the playoffs would have then been based on how Classical and English fared against the other teams in the division.
Devin said a crossover game versus English in the first few weeks of the season would have taken away some of the significance from the Thanksgiving game.
“Both schools thought meeting in the first half of the season would have taken away from the importance of the Thanksgiving game,” said Devin. “The Thanksgiving game is pretty much going to be for bragging rights in the city. To me, that game is like the Super Bowl for the kids Lynn and we’re coming up on 100 years for that game.”
Devin said that Classical voted against the new state playoff system.
“We want our kids to go to the playoffs but we also wanted to keep the importance of the NEC,” said Devin. “In the new system, teams that don’t make the playoffs won’t know whom their opponents are going to be in Weeks 8, 9, and 10.”