'Decision time': Long-standing holiday matchup with Case, Somerset Berkley in jeopardy

The Herald News
The Herald News

The long-standing Thanksgiving Day high school football rivalry between Joseph Case and Somerset Berkley appears to be in jeopardy.

The 90-year holiday tradition, which dates back to the 1930s, may be coming to a halt.

Cardinals athletic director Anthony Palladino explained that nothing is set in stone yet, but he's looking into a better fit for his student-athletes on Thanksgiving.

"When I talked with the [higher] people above me, I'm trying to do what I feel is right for the Case High student-athletes," he said. "I understand it is a long-lasting tradition, but the game has not been competitive."

Two weeks before the recent news, the Raiders dominated the recent Thanksgiving Day matchup with Case, 50-14.

Case seeks an equal playing field

"It is not an equal playing field," Palladino said. "For schools that play in a collision sport, asking to play a school four divisions up isn't ideal. I'm just trying to look around to see what is the best fit for Case High student-athletes.

With the updated Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Football tournament statewide alignment in place, Somerset Berkley is in Division III with 1020 enrolled students in grades 9-12, while the Cardinals, which is in Division VII, has 520 students enrolled.

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"We are exploring every option right now and seeing what's out there," Palladino said. "There is not a lot of movement on Thanksgiving Day games, but we're trying to look around and find out if there is a better fit for us and a competitive game with a [small] like-size school."

Raiders look into Thanksgiving Day options

Raiders athletic director Joe Francis also put out a statement regarding this issue.

"Case has informed us that they will be actively looking for a different Thanksgiving opponent," Francis said. "They do not have anything in place formally. We hope that both schools can find other opponents before we agree to part ways. We are actively looking at this point as well."

Palladino said he reached out to SBR head football coach Nick Freitas about his decision.

"We did a lot together over the years including doing camps together," he said.

When asked about the situation, Freitas responded by saying 'no comment'.

Palladino recalls the days when he attended Saint Raphael (better known as Saint Rays) high school in Pawtucket, R.I. His high school opponent, Tolman, was engaged in a nearly 75-year Thanksgiving Day tradition with them before they opted out of the rivalry.

"We had become dominate and Tolman called us and said it wasn't a great fit anymore," he said "We were looking for a game afterward."

Saint Raphael was leading the series 38–31–4 and won the last eight meetings by a count of 270-6.

Palladino said there is plenty of data in the last two decades with Case and Somerset Berkley to prove an unlevel playing field for his kids. The Cardinals were outscored, 615-151, during those years. In nine years as head coach, he has yet to win on Thanksgiving.

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"The last 20 years, we are 2-18 in the game," he said. "In half of those games, we've been shut out. The numbers are something astronomical like that.

"It is a situation where tradition is important and pays homage to them. But at what cost does that happen? We are trying to do what's best for the kids and put them in a fair and equitable spot."

Palladino said his decision to seek out another opponent was a tough one to swallow.

"It's a hard decision that is not taken lightly by any of the members in the school administration here," he said. "It was a decision that was talked about, including the pros and cons of it. The only data point that proves to play that game is because of the way we've always done it. We just don't feel that it's the reason to do it anymore."

In 2019, Coyle-Cassidy ended its longtime, holiday rivalry with Taunton High after 88 meetings. The Tigers held a 50-36-2 advantage over the Warriors, including winning the final 10 games between the schools.

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Since the turn of the 21st century, Taunton held a 17-2 record on Thanksgiving. Taunton lost a Thanksgiving Day game that season before starting a new rivalry with Milford in 2021.

"My job as an athletic director is to provide the best experience for our student-athletes," Palladino said. "That is putting them in a position where they could be successful. We don't feel that's where it is right now on Thanksgiving. It is just an inequitable matchup."

Herald News and Taunton Daily Gazette sports editor Steven Sanchez can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @Chezsports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.

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