Derby and Shelton announce indefinite cancellation of centennial Thanksgiving football game

Derby and Shelton will no longer play their annual Thanksgiving soccer game, at least for the foreseeable future, the school’s athletic departments said in a joint statement Monday morning.

The rivalry, which has been played for about 117 years since 1905, has not been played for the past two seasons. The 2020 meeting has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last season, Derby lost their last five games, including the Thanksgiving game against Shelton, citing safety concerns due to the low numbers.

In the statement, both schools said the decision to end the game followed similar reasons.

“Going forward, the Derby and Shelton programs believe that the annual commitment to play is no longer in the best interest for the safety and well-being of either program,” said said athletic directors Teg Cosgriff of Derby and Scott Snell of Shelton. in the joint statement.

“Collectively, we are all looking forward to bringing the Thanksgiving Day game back in the future when appropriate. “

Less than an hour after the announcement, Southern Connecticut Conference commissioner Al Carbone said on Twitter that Shelton will now play Xavier of Middletown instead of Derby next season.

“While sad this ‘tradition’ is coming to an end,” he tweeted, “CSC is happy that @gaels_football can play @athleticsXHS in week 12 (Thanksgiving week) in 2022.”

Shelton led the all-time series with Derby around 59-43-7. But the game had grown increasingly lopsided over the past two decades, as cities gradually changed in size and demographics shifted.

Derby, now the state’s smallest one-school football program with 186 boys enrolled in 2020, had not won the game since a 13-12 victory in 2002.

Shelton, an LL-class school with nearly 700 boys enrolled, has won the last 17 games, including a 62-6 win in 2014, the biggest winning margin in series history.

Former rivals of the Houstatonic League were competitive throughout the 20th century. Derby, which has 11 seasons undefeated and was No.1 in the final New Haven Record Top 10 poll three times, claimed seven straight wins over Shelton from 1966 to 1973.

But after winning a second CIAC S-Class championship in 1990, the programs began to fall apart in the years following their joining CSC in 1994.

Derby increasingly became a bad fit for the predominantly big school New Haven County League and eventually left for the smaller Naugatuck Valley league in 2009.

Shelton, meanwhile, has won three of his four CIAC State Championships and has appeared in 11 state tournaments since 1995. The Gaels have not seen a losing season since 2004.

As a result of the move, Shelton’s status as a big school meant he was losing significant points in the CIAC playoffs for playing Derby, now designated as a small school, non-league opponent.

That, and Derby’s waning success on the pitch (the Red Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2015), have hampered the Gaels’ chances of making the LL Class playoffs every year. The CIAC rejected several Shelton exemption requests.

While the official start of the rivalry is disputed due to what constituted an official match with official university players on both sides, its start dates back to 1904 and 1905.

The game was played on and off until 1922 when it became an annual event. The two schools have agreed to commemorate the 2010 game as the 100th reunion.

About Betty J. Snyder

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