NEW BRITIAN - An important Thanksgiving rivalry may soon be coming to an end.
This season may be the last for the Wishbone Bowl between the New Britain and Berlin football teams. Talks have been ongoing as to whether or not to continue the annual game, which has been played for the past nine years.
For Berlin head coach Joe Aresimowicz, however, it’s already a foregone conclusion.
“This [season] is the end of the Wishbone Bowl,” Aresimowicz said. “Our contract [with New Britain] is up [after the year].”
But Aresimowicz might be alone in his belief the game is coming to an end after this season. Both New Britain athletic director Len Corto and Berlin athletic director Jeff Mauri say no decision has been made on if the rivalry will continue.
“Our schedules get made a year in advance, so we will be working on those during this fall season,” Corto said. “As far as Joe saying he’s not playing us, it’s not totally his decision. I don’t know why he wants to get out of it, they beat us a year before at Sage [Park] and then we beat them at [Veterans Stadium] last year. Now we’re back at their place.”
Revived in 2009, the rivalry game between the two neighboring programs has led to some exciting moments, especially of late. In 2015, the year Berlin was stripped of its wins due to a recruiting scandal leading up the game, the Redcoats came away with a 31-28 win on a final-seconds field goal. Berlin won again in 2016, 28-25, on a Jack Hamel touchdown in overtime. The Hurricanes rolled to an easy 51-6 win last year.
Overall, the Redcoats have come away with five of the nine meetings, also collecting wins in 2010-2012. New Britain picked up victories in 2009, 2013 and 2014. The Hurricanes also hold the edge in scoring, 199-169.
Under the current structure, the CCC schedules nine of a team’s 10 regular season games, with individual teams negotiating on who they want to play in that final game.
“There’s nothing official on [the Wishbone Bowl] yet,” Mauri said. “What most teams do is one year at the opponent’s place, one year at our place and it’ll be on a two-year cycle. As of right now, we haven’t even looked at next year’s schedule.”
But the nearly decade long rivalry doesn’t make sense for Berlin, Aresimowicz said. New Britain is the fourth largest school in the state with a total enrollment of 2,311, including 1,206 boys, whereas Berlin is the 72nd largest, with a total enrollment of 904, including 491 boys.
“They have three times as many boys in the school than we do,” Aresimowicz said. “It’s like the little brother fighting the big brother. We’ve had great success, but sooner or later that big brother is just going to take over.”
“We’ve been bouncing back and forth [in terms of wins and losses],” Aresimowicz added. “But when it comes to reaching the playoffs and going through New Britain, I don't know how fair it is for kids who have worked their whole senior season to get to that point.”
New Britain head coach Tebucky Jones was surprised to hear the rumors of a potential end to the Wishbone Bowl.
“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” Jones said. “If they are going to stop it, I don’t know the reason. All it is, is to sign a piece of paper to continue it, right?”
The Wishbone Bowl, however, is more than just a game. It brings two neighboring communities together once year a week before Thanksgiving.
“It’s definitely our highest attended game and everyone looks forward to it,” Mauri said. “It’s that built in rivalry, that geographic rival that everyone looks forward to. It’s a real good time for everyone who comes. It’s an enjoyable, competitive game and it’s always exciting. Both towns have a lot of pride in their sports programs and it’s an awesome night when we play New Britain.”
Jones appreciates a good competitive game, especially with a border town. He said that tradition is important, especially when it comes to football.
“Me, I’m a competitive person,” Jones said. “So when I see a good game, why would you want to stop playing a game that’s so great and competitive? It’s great for the two towns and half of the Veterans Stadium parking lot is in Berlin.
“All I can say is I hope they continue the tradition.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860)801-5096 or email@example.com