Middle Creek football coach Mike Castellano, like many football coaches, thinks of football when he thinks of Thanksgiving Day.
But his memories are not of sitting around a fire with his family and friends and watching football games on television and eating a feast.
No, his thoughts go back to the last time he played a high school football game.
He played for the Frenchtown (N.J.) Delaware Regional Terriers and each year on Thanksgiving Day they play the Lambertville (N.J.) South Hunterdon Eagles.
A cold rain turned the field into a mud pit his senior year. Water was standing on the field. It was miserable and it was wonderful.
The game was a defensive struggle. The Eagles ran an outside option and Castellano came up to defend the pitch man. Castellano was hit and couldnt elude a blocker. The runner dashed to the end zone.
The game ended in a 6-6 tie.
When I think of Thanksgiving, I remember that game, my last one in high school, Castellano said. I couldnt get off the block and we ended up tying 6-6.
High school games on Thanksgiving Day are not a tradition in North Carolina, which is in the middle of its playoffs each year on Turkey Day.
Having to work in a practice on Thanksgiving is one mark of having an outstanding team. Most teams plan morning workouts on Thanksgiving so that players and coaches can spend much of the holiday with their families.
Middle Creek is adding a little twist this year, though.
The Mustangs will gather at 8:15 a.m. for a player-and-parent breakfast. The players will begin special teams sessions by 9, begin a light workout at 9:30 and leave around 10:15.
We had been wanting to do something for our parents, Castellano said. This way we get to do something special, plus we know the kids are getting some breakfast.
Southern Durham coach Adrian Jones said he wants to give players as much time off as possible on Thanksgiving.
That family time is important, he said. Im thankful to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family, friends and loved ones. I have a great family that supports me. Our tradition is that every year my mother and father have a big Thanksgiving feast. They invite all the family and friends and we just sit around and talk and watch football.
Fridays game day preparations will be different, too, during the Thanksgiving break. The players and coaches are usually in school on football game days, but arent this week.
Some area coaches in the past held day-after-stuffing morning practices of Friday, but Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas favors making as few changes to the schedule as possible.
Well report at our normal time and from that point on will treat the game as much to normal as we can, Lucas said.
The coaches said they would take time to reflect on Thanksgiving. They are all thankful to have third round N.C. High School Athletic Association games on Friday, but they said that is only part of the picture.
Im thankful for my two kids and for my kids at Millbrook, said Wildcats coach Clarence Inscore. And to be the coach of these wonderful guys.
For my family, said Knightdales Robert Senseney.
The coaching staff, Jones said.
My job, my players and most of all my family, Lucas said.
Lucas has been at Wake Forest for nine years and this will be its fourth Thanksgiving Day practice.
As a high school coach, you want to be able to be practice on Thanksgiving Day, he said. Its really special and you want to appreciate it. But you also realize that you have an awful lot to be thankful for other than football.