The Marblehead and Swampscott Gridiron Clubs hosted the annual Old Timers Banquet Monday night at the Gerry Five VFA Club located on Beacon Street in Marblehead.
The banquet is a yearly event held just before the Thanksgiving Day matchup between Marblehead High School and Swampscott High School. More than 100 former players, coaches and other members from the schools attended this year’s event after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Dinner was provided to those in attendance and the ceremony started shortly after the meal. A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the ceremony for all of those that both football programs have lost over the years. Introductions of both the Marblehead and Swampscott Old Timers Committees by Marblehead Gridiron Club’s Evan Harris followed.
Harris concluded his opening comments by stating how much he and other former players in the audience are looking forward to the annual rivalry game.
“It’s going to be tough to beat last year’s game. There’s no Super Bowls this year for either team, all there is is concentration on what matters to probably most of us in this hall, and that is the Thanksgiving game,” Harris said.
Afterwards, both head coaches of the current high school programs, Swampscott Coach Bob Serino and Marblehead Coach Jim Rudloff were introduced. Each coach spoke at the podium, noting their mutual respect for each other and how special the rivalry is, even more so with both teams bringing home Super Bowls last season.
The two also touched on the recent success of the town’s youth football programs, which are beginning to get back up to speed after registration had declined following the pandemic, and are important in getting kids prepared to play at the high school level.
Headlining the event was Endicott Head Coach Paul McGonagle. McGonagle, who has more than 20 years of coaching experience at a number of different colleges, just recently led the Gulls to an undefeated 10-0 regular season and the team’s first top 25 ranking in school history.
During his speech, McGonagle said coaching is all about the culture that is built around the team, and not just what happens on the field.
“It’s all about culture. It’s not about X’s and O’s,” said McGonagle. “We build culture, and culture is something to build on every single day.”
McGonagle expanded on how he has found success as a coach throughout his career and how he can get the best out of his players. At the end of his speech, he talked about how great it is to be able to work as a football coach.
“The greatest thing about football, is that when you coach a game, or watch a game, you go home, shower, and you put football on. It’s crazy right?” he said. “How many jobs do you have that you can say you can do that, to say that, and the effect you have on these kids?”
McGonagle wished both teams good luck in the Thanksgiving game and was given a round of applause as he concluded his speech.
To end the evening, Harris announced this year’s recipient of the Rev. Monsignor John P. Carroll Award, John Whipple.
Whipple was chosen for the award thanks to his work and dedication with the Marblehead Youth Football program. He thanked everyone for the honor, stating how much he loves working with the organization, and how important it is to keep kids in the program.
“It’s been a pleasure, it’s been great to give back. Obviously the youth programs are essential for the high school programs, and we’ve really tried to build out the youth programs,” said Whipple. “It has been difficult over the last seven, eight years, but our numbers are getting back there.”
Harris concluded the event by thanking everyone in attendance and wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving as both towns prepare for the next chapter in the 113-year-old rivalry.
Kickoff is slated for 10 a.m at Piper Field at Marblehead High School Thanksgiving morning.