NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — There is one thing Norwich and New London fans can agree on: this rivalry is a record holder.
“[It’s] the oldest game around,” said Norwich fan Jonathan Daniewicz. “One hundred fifty-eight. NFA last year we beat them by a lot. Hopefully, we beat them again right here we had a great kickoff.”
“It’s been a rivalry that’s been going on for a long time,” said New London fan Lance Lynch.
The 2019 Thanksgiving game marks the 158th meeting between the NFA Wildcats and the New London Whalers but the first time kickoff was at 1:30 p.m. the day before the holiday.
“So disappointing it couldn’t be tomorrow but stuff happens,” said Norwich fan Seamus Sullivan. “Had to do it. In the interest of safety, probably the best decision made.”
Normally, Norwich would have four officers at one of these Thanksgiving games but this time 30 officers were there from both cities.
“I have a number of my officers [here],” said New London Police Chief Peter Reichard. “Uniform and a few plainclothes at the event right now.”
“[Officers are here] not only to prevent problems and identify potential troublemakers but to also let the New London fans feel they’re welcome here,” said Norwich Police Chief Patrick Daley.
One fan disappointed he wasn’t allowed in the game was a friend and former NFA teammate of 18-year-old Joseph Desir, who is accused of shooting a New London man at a Halloween party in Norwich. It was one of a few clashes prompting police to suggest this game be played during the day.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Lynch. “But it’s all good as long as everybody gets along.”
Most spectators kept their eyes focused on the field and didn’t notice police, who were there to make sure any clashes between the two teams and the two cities stayed on the field.
“A lot of drama I guess,” said New London fan CJ Hamilton. “But we get past that [and] have fun; it’s a football game.”
The cities’ police chiefs led that sentiment by example.
“Go Whalers,” said Chief Reichard. “Go NFA,” added Chief Daley after speaking with reporters.