Thanksgiving Day Football

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Kofi Wilson of Shelton is in the middle of the pile and the puddle scoring Shelton's only touchdown in the 1998 classic 7-7 tie. (More pictures below)

Thanksgiving Day football is a holiday tradition between cross-river rivals Derby and Shelton. And the 1998 game was one of the classics as the two teams slugged it out to a 7 - 7 tie under some of the most adverse weather conditions in the history of the game. Day was turned into night by torrential downpours that necessitated the lights being turned on at Edward Finn Stadium in Shelton. Even the ducks were in hiding as sheets of wind swept rain turned the field into a puddled quagmire of mud.

The two teams played like heavyweight contenders standing in the middle of the ring slugging it out in a battle for survival. Shelton drew first blood when Kofi Wilson punched it in from three yards out in the first quarter and the PAT gave Shelton a 7-0. The lead held through the half and conditions were so bad that the half time show had to be cancelled.

Gene DiGiovanni scored Derby's only touchdown early in the second half as he broke several tackles at the line of scrimmage and found daylight to the outside on the way to a run of about forty yards to the end zone. Greg Schuette's kick tied the game at seven and both teams had difficulty hanging on to the slippery pigskin for the rest of the game.

Shelton launched a furious drive with under three minutes remaining, but time ran out on them with the ball on the Derby three yard line.

Gene DiGiovanni was named as the game's outstanding player by sportswriters in attendance and presented with the "Silver Turkey" Award presented by the Valley Times.

This was the 87th meeting between the two schools and Derby held a slim 41-39 edge in wins while the tie was the seventh in the historic series which dates back to 1904. Derby finished the season with a 3-6-1 record while Shelton finished the season with a 7-2-1 record. However, the loss cost the Gaels a piece of the Housatonic Division title.

The rivalry is unique in Connecticut football not only because of its long history, but also because of the great sportsmanship that has always been part of the tradition. The teams actually break bread together at a luncheon two days before the game hosted by the Derby/Shelton Rotary Club. The Club also donates a competitive trophy that the winner of the game possesses for a year. Once a team accumulates ten points for a combination of wins and ties, they retire the trophy. In 1997, Shelton retired the previous trophy after 18 years of competition. Former Shelton Coach, Tony Branca designed, built and donated a new trophy that went into play at the 1998 game. Click here to see pictures and learn more.

Some scenes from this year's game: (Click on the images for larger renditions.)

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The opening kickoff.
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The final play of the game at the Derby two yard line!
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The teams meet at midfield following a grueling duel.

Other Photos

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