Two up-and-coming teams will seek redemption in their 77th Thanksgiving meeting.
Neither South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., nor Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., can clinch a winning campaign based on the result of today’s 10 a.m. clash at the South Philadelphia super site, 10th and Bigler streets. However, each school covets an undefeated morning, so the 77th annual Turkey Bowl’s spectators will be able to feast on the sight of committed athletes before consuming their holiday meals.
A Public League AAAA Silver Division member, Southern made preparations at the host location Nov. 14, with hopes of halting Neumann-Goretti’s five-game series winning streak.
“My staff and I do not have to motivate these guys,” first-year head coach Scott Pitzner said as defensive players reviewed formations.
That statement solidifies his belief that observers can easily notice an attitude change among his Rams. Pitzner noted late season practices during his three years as an assistant with the Lower Moyamensing institution featured few bodies. Since assuming the chief instructional position, he has witnessed an attendance and confidence spike so compelling he is already anticipating next season as a test of his charges’ tenacity. His views, though, do not mean the rookie leader, of the 1800 block of South Sartain Street, is not seeking a big victory in this year’s finale.
“I live right by Neumann-Goretti and watch their kids every day,” he said. “I want nothing more than to beat them.”
Overseeing a roster teeming with heart and pride, Pitzner feels the tilt with the Saints will continue his youngsters’ history of putting forth great efforts. Hard work, unfortunately, has not yet achieved many statistical monuments.
The 1-9 Rams enter the game seeking their first victory since Sept. 29 — an 8-0 triumph over Edison High School. That contest, the season’s fifth, marked the offense’s first trip to the end zone. They have suffered four shutouts, including Sept. 2’s season opening 46-0 demolition courtesy of Edward Bok High School, 1901 S. Ninth St. Foes have scored 275 points, while the offense has generated 74, with 26 coming Oct. 6 in a 40-26 loss to Horace Furness High School, 1900 S. Third St.
Last week gave the units chances to hear from their head man, as Pitzner inspected their executions. Before last year’s affair, a 6-0 win for Neumann-Goretti, his predecessor, Stanley “Stosh” Tunney, said he desired to be victorious because turkey tastes better when wins come one’s way.
“Let’s just say I’ve had some bad turkey the last three years,” Pitzner said with a laugh.
Craving more pleasing provisions, he hopes his defensive line, linebackers and junior all-purpose weapon Wayne Brunson will tarnish the Saints’ plans.
“We have to make plays, commit no turnovers, stop them and move the ball,” Brunson said of Southern’s mindset.
The resident of the 2100 block of McKean Street looked limber as he continued to recover from a high ankle sprain. He makes his squad formidable defensively as a defensive back and a linebacker and has gained 316 rushing yards and snared 13 catches.
“We are looking to play 48 great minutes,” he said of desiring Southern’s 20th series win.
He and Pitzner posit that today’s battle will draw more focus to their school’s future.
“For the first time, I think in Southern’s history,” the coach said, “we are building a program.”
East Passyunk Crossing’s Saints hope the foundation for the Rams’ scheme does not begin today. The 76 previous holiday contests have been generous to the parochial players, as their school has collected 54 wins, with three ties. Pitzner lauded his front defenders, but the Saints will look to make a miserable morning for his secondary. First-year coach Charlie Szydlik guides a team that loves to cause trouble through the air. The Northeast resident united the architect of the aerial attack, quarterback Shane Thomas, and the signal caller’s senior teammates Nov. 16 at the school for a discussion.
“Anytime you play a rival school on Thanksgiving, it brings out the best in everybody,” Szydlik said.
His Catholic League AA troops will march onto the field seeking their fourth win against seven losses. Their season began impressively Sept. 2, as they rocked Furness 34-20. The defensive has struggled, as the school’s most recent triumph — Oct. 29’s 14-0 victory over Bishop McDevitt — marked only the second time they held an adversary under 20 points. The Saints have scored 145 points but have yielded 282.
Great gains can come from humbling hindrances as long as one is willing to learn from losses and continues to try to excel.
About to enter the prime of their lives, the players from Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., and South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., already have mastered persistence. Entering their annual Thanksgiving encounter, they will conclude their seasons short on wins but long on pride.
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