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A steady line converged on a donated ambulance behind one of the endzone at Viola Stadium yesterday morning.

One by one, grownups and children made their way to the opening of the van to greet legendary coach Jim Cotter. A handshake for one, a smile for all, it was easy to see why Cotter is a revered figure in the BC High community.

His body ravaged by ALS, the 71-year-old Cotter is confined to a wheelchair. He's accepted his fate and enjoys each day to its fullest, preferring to focus on positive events.

``It's a beautiful day for Football and I'm so happy to see Jon Bartlett coaching BC High Football,'' said Cotter, who was on hand to watch his beloved Eagles clinch a Catholic Conference title with a 17-7 win over Catholic Memorial. ``This has always been a special day and I have so many wonderful memories of Thanksgiving Day Football.

``I still remember the 1977 game with Catholic Memorial where we kept Paul Heinsohn (the son of Tommy Heinsohn) inbounds on the final play of the game. If he got out of bounds and stopped the clock, they could have a kicked a game-winning field and we wouldn't have gone to the Super Bowl.''

Standing nearby yesterday was Cotter's daughter, Grace Cotter Regan. The oldest of the former coach's three children, her eyes glistening as the crowd of well-wishers never seemed to diminish.

``He's never felt sorry for himself,'' said Cotter Regan. ``I can remember the first time I found out dad had ALS (in 2006). He told me `Cotters always manage things and I expect you to manage as well.' ''

Pass me the leg

After shutting down Bellingham 54-0, head coach Robb McCoy and running back Sean Ryan walked cheerfully to the bus. McCoy, holding the gold-Football-topped Thanksgiving trophy, turned to his star senior with a quizzical look. ``What is that?'' McCoy asked. Ryan uncovered his offensive game MVP trophy. Wrapped around the left leg of the bronzed player on the trophy were two pieces of white tape. Ironically, the sure-footed Ryan explained, the trophy had been dropped and the bronze emulation had injured his leg.

All in the family

For 64 years, taking a few years off from 1951-1953 to go fight for the U.S. in the Korean War, Mo Gentile has been going to Cambridge high school Thanksgiving Day games. His alma mater (Class of '48) may not have had the greatest success over the years, but there is no other place he and many members of the Gentile family would rather be.

``We come here all the time, of course,'' said the 80-year-old Gentile, who was at yesterday's game with his brother John, 72 (Class of '54), and John's daughter, Debbie Gentile-McMann (Class of 1980). ``I never played because we had to work after school. The rich kids who didn't have to work, they played.''

Gentile-McMann put the Gentile's family presence at Russell Field for the Cambridge-Everett tilt in simple terms. ``You have to come to the game, then you have Thanksgiving dinner. This is more important than the turkey.''

Putting on a show

Framingham senior quarterback Daniel Guadagnoli had double the incentive against Natick yesterday.

In addition to wanting to win the annual Thanksgiving Day battle between the Metrowest rivals, Guadagnoli knew that Joel Lamb, Harvard's offensive coordinator and son of Natick's longtime coach Tom Lamb, would be in the stands, watching intently. Harvard is among the handful of schools recruiting Guadagnoli.

``I think he was showing off for the other Lamb,'' joked Tom Lamb, who praised Guadagnoli's performance.

There was plenty to like. Guadagnoli directed the Flyers to a convincing 28-7 victory by throwing three touchdown passes. He finished 18-for-22 for 254 yards with three touchdown passes.

In addition to Harvard, Guadagnoli said Northeastern, the University of New Hampshire and University of Rhode Island have expressed a recruiting interest in him.

Chip off the old block

East Boston head coach John Sousa experienced a little unwelcomed deja vu yesterday. South Boston quarterback Derick Willis ran all over Sousa's Jets to the tune of two rushing touchdowns and 170 yards. He also threw a TD pass.

Sousa has seen that kind of athletic ability before. When Sousa was an assistant at Boston English in the 1970s and '80s, he coached Willis' father, Derick, Sr.

``His father was a great ballplayer, too,'' said Sousa. ``I gave Derick a big hug at the end of the game and congratulated his son, because he runs and hits just like his father. Good for him.''

Decisions, decisions

December 3 has long been the night that Parent-Teachers Night was scheduled at Bedford High School. The timing couldn't be worse with the 10-1 Buccaneers' Football team scheduled to face Hanover on the same night in a one-game small school playoff, the first in school history. One assumes attendance may be down a bit at those parent-teacher meetings.

``My parents will be at the game!'' said Bedford' standout wide receiver, Ryan Carter. ``Probably some of the teachers may even sneak out early, too.''

``The cheerleading coach is also a teacher,'' head coach Jack Belcher said. ``She has to be at school and the cheerleaders can't go without a chaperone. We're going to have to look for volunteers.''

One assumes they'll be found.

``These kids have done a phenomenal job,'' said Bedford athletic director Kevin Mangan. ``Somehow we'll be there to support them.''

Your State U at work

The University of Massachusetts Football program had some wonderful product placement on display at yesterday's Swampscott-Marblehead game at Swampscott's Blocksidge Field: Anthony D'Agnese, a reserve on the Swampscott varsity, spent the entire game sporting a UMass Football hand warmer wrapped around his midsection.

As it turns out, this was no ordinary hand warmer.

``It belongs to Coach from back in the day,'' said D'Agnese, referring to Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski. ``Someone's always wearing it.''

The hand warmer is actually an artifact from Dembowski's own Football days at UMass, and he has held onto it over the years. He brings it to every game.

Water works

The Marshfield Gridiron Club's Lauri Nickerson had her young group of ``Aquatic Specialists'' busy during the Rams' game against archrival Duxbury. Nickerson, whose son, Nick Nickerson, played for Marshfield for four years before graduating last year, had a young crew of five working hard keeping the water bottles filled for the players and bringing them out to the Rams' during timeouts.

Nickerson's grandchildren Kasey and Ted Nickerson, along with James and Lucas Keuther and Jacob Qualter, sported ``Aquatic Specialists'' T-shirts and kept busy throughout the Rams' 28-0 loss.

``I make sure they're OK,'' said Nickerson, who kept a sharp eye on her young workers. ``They're all Football fanatics.''

Paying their dues

Waltham Football moms Pat Geary and Lisa Damigella are the Hawks' hawkers.

At the entrance to Leary Field, the site of the traditional Brockton vs. Waltham game, the two ladies were conducting business at a red-laced bazaar of Hawks' clothing and memorabilia to benefit the Gridiron Club. There were sweatshirts, Football jerseys, hats, pennants, programs and tickets to that wonderful game of chance called the 50-50 raffle.

The Waltham Gridiron Club has a caste system in which Geary and Damigella were compelled to work the outdoor galleria while the higher-up moms enjoyed a tailgate party across the street. When their sons, sophomore Kevin Geary and freshman Michael Damigella, advance up the depth chart, the two ladies will get to tailgate in 2010.

Making dad proud

Bobby Jones is a veteran of the 48-year rivalry between King Philip and Franklin as a player, a fan, and now a father.

Tucked against the fence in the end zone, Jones watched every snap intently as the Warriors' offense rolled up yard after yard. A 1978 graduate of King Philip and former Football player, Jones has watched more than his fair share of Football on Thanksgiving, but never has he felt this much excitement - his son, Matt, was making the first start of his varsity career.

``I'm just so proud of him that he's out there,'' Jones said. ``When I played, this was the one game a year that made your season. Seeing your son play on the same field that I once did is just an amazing feeling.''

The son acquitted himself well, despite the butterflies that were churning inside his stomach since he found out he would be the starting left tackle for the Warriors' high-powered offense. A little fatherly advice may have helped ease the mind.

``I told him the kids on the other side of the field grew up almost down the street. Just hit the first white shirt you see - you'll feel better.''

Family affair with a twist

Stephen Serwon is the fourth in a long line of his family members to suit up for the Amesbury-Newburyport Thanksgiving Day rivalry, only with a bit of a twist.

Unlike his father, uncle and grandfather before him, who played for Newburyport, Stephen plays for Amesbury.

With 56 years of the Serwon family blood, sweat and tears invested in Clipper Football, you might think that Stephen Sr., his brother Bob, and their father, Frank, would have felt a bit odd sitting on the Amesbury side of the stands for the last three years.

``Absolutely not,'' said Bob, who won Super Bowls in 1975 and 1976 with Newburyport. ``Blood is thicker than school.''

``But next year we'll be back there on the Newburyport side,'' added Frank, who played for Newburyport from 1952-54.

``They've always supported me for whatever I've done, so it's never been awkward at all,'' Stephen Jr. confirmed.

Stephen Sr., who moved to Amesbury in 1996, played for Newburyport from 1972-74, and pitched for six years in the Red Sox minor league system. He said that he doesn't plan to be in the Newburyport stands next season.

``I'll be going to college games,'' he said.

Stephen Jr., a linebacker and split end, has yet to decide whether he will play next fall at Merrimack, the University of New Hampshire, Northeastern or Springfield College.

Mom at work

Michelle O'Brien, mother of Boston Latin senior running back Brendan O'Brien, was busy at work selling 50-50 raffle tickets at yesterday's Latin-English game at Harvard Stadium.

The proud and dedicated mom was hoping to finish her volunteer duties in time to catch a glimpse of her son, in his final high school Football game. It didn't quite work out, at least early on, as O'Brien retrieved an English punt after the game's opening possession and scooted 75 yards for a touchdown that would ultimately stand as the game-winning points.

``I missed it,'' said the disappointed but still proud Mrs. O'Brien.

Polish power

Methuen senior defensive linemen Tomasz Dziedzic and his family came to the United States from Poland seven years ago unable to speak english.

An imposing figure, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 310 pounds, Football gave him an opportunity to fit into his new environment.

``It gave me a family that I could always rely on,'' said Dziedzic in a thick Pollish accent, sporting a blue Methuen Football shirt displaying the words: Family Forever.

Plugging up the holes on defense, Dziedzic played a big role in leading Methuen to its first winning season in five years. After playing through Methuen's 30-game losing streak, it's safe to say that his seventh Thanksgiving dinner will taste the sweetest.

Football city

The Pope John Tigers usually play their home games in Chelsea, but with Everett on the road, the Div. 4 team was able to play yesterday in the home of its big brother - road-bound Everett High School.

That's appropriate. No other city in this state has forged as solid a Football legacy as Everett over the last 10 years - in part because Pope John, with 30 wins over the last four years, is now on the map as well.

``It's a fact that Football is so popular in Everett,'' said Ken Peavey, who has been Pope John's athletic director for the last 15 years. ``The problem is that only a few can play there. So some kids come over here to play.''

Much has been made of Pope John's success - the Tigers won their second straight Catholic Small title with yesterday's 30-20 win over Lowell Catholic - despite only having 22 players on the team.

But a good portion of that roster is home grown.

Eight of those players, including co-captains B.J. Cardello and Sean Nalen and tailback Justin Nascimento, are Everett kids.

``The coaches just do a great job with what they have,'' said Peavey.

Sean McAdam, Michael Silverman, Ron Borges, Matt Burns, Joe Viera, Steve Conroy, Steve Buckley, John Connolly, Rich Thompson, Joe Reardon, Mark Murphy, Mark Daniels and Bruce Lerch contributed to this report.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 29, 2008

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