What are some of the things someone thinks of when they hear Thanksgiving? The big four Fs come to mind when asked this question: family, friends, food and football.
Dating back to 1883, Malden High School and Medford High School have one of the longest running football rivalries in the country. Last year the two teams were not able to play each other on Thanksgiving due to COVID-19, but there was still a contest in the spring that Medford won . To read more about that game click here.
It was a bright and crisp Thanksgiving morning. Fans of both teams filled the stadium with a mix of current students and alumni. There was excitement in the air as the national anthem was played by the school band.
Malden won the coin toss and decided to receive the ball to start the game. The game kicked off in fashion that would make NFL great Devin Hester proud. Sophomore Davian McGuffy would take the kick to the house and score a touchdown with only 13 seconds coming off the clock. Senior Ronald Juarez would make the extra point to make the score 7-0 Malden.
After such a great start to the game, the defense would have to match this energy displayed by the special teams. On second down of Medford’s possession, Malden’s defensive line would wrap up the Medford running back for a loss and then on third down, freshman Earl Fevrier would get the drive-ending sack to force a punt.
This lucky streak would unfortunately run dry for the Golden Tornados as the Mustangs forced a fumble on their 30 yard line with the very next play being a scramble of 10 yards by the quarterback. Later that drive, Senior linebacker Omar Ayouch got a tackle for a loss which would eventually force a 4th down, but that was converted using a QB sneak.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Medford was knocking on the door of Malden’s endzone after power runs established by the offensive lineman. Malden’s defense was able to provide a goal-line stand to end Medford’s drive. With the ball and their backs close to the endzone, Malden decided to run to the ball but was forced to pass on third down with freshman Aidan Brett. This was one of the rare times in this historic rivalry that a freshman would be the starting quarterback for either side. Brett was able to draw a roughing the passer call on the Medford defense to end the first quarter with Malden leading by a score of 7-0.
Shortly after to start the second quarter, Malden punted the ball away deep to Medford with the ball around the 50 yard line. Senior JJ Irizarry was able to read the eyes of the quarterback and intercept the ball at the 32 yard line to get the ball back for Malden. The Golden Tornados would get a little sloppy with penalties and get the ball back close to their endzone again. However this time Medford was able to get pressure on Brett and make him throw a pass that ended up being called intentional grounding which resulted in a safety for Medford with the score now being 7-2 Malden.
The crowd would help the Golden Tornados make the next drive by getting a Medford offensive lineman to move early and receive a false start penalty. On third down, Davain McGuffy would be the star player again by deflecting a key pass to get Medford to punt after having great field position.
The rest of the game would be seen quarterbacked by the usual starter, senior Jordan Rodriguez. The Mustangs knew they had to put in more effort if they wanted to stay close in this football game and that is exactly what they were able to do. After getting Malden to punt by sacking Rodriguez, Medford completed a 20 yard pass near the sidelines to stop the clock. With 11 seconds left on the clock, the Mustangs quarterback ran into the endzone and got the two point conversion to end the second quarter with a score of 10-7 Medford.
During halftime the Medford marching band and cheer team put on a performance at midfield to the tune of Star Wars music. Malden had their own talent with drummers putting on a show similar to that of what they did at the pep rally.
Letting up 10 unanswered points going into the second half of the game really seemed to get Malden crafty on their kickoff. In a very unique formation, all of the Golden Tornados huddled together to try an onside kick and they were successful in doing so to get the ball. This got Malden going as they followed their special teams trickery with a gashing 20 yard run by junior Makhial Coulanges-Blaise. A field goal later that drive by Juarez would tie the score at 10-10.
Medford muffed the kick return and started their drive on their own 3 yard line. Karma would soon meet the Mustangs as their center misaimed the snap and got their quarterback sacked in the endzone by cornerback Lyden Lewis to get Malden a safety of their own. The score was now 12-10 Malden.
Disaster could be the only word used to describe what happened to Medford that 14 seconds. These mishaps would continue by the Mustangs throwing another interception to then end the third quarter 12-10 Malden.
Malden wouldn’t make much use of this interception to start the fourth quarter and punted the ball away. Malden’s defense would continue to show it’s second half resilience by getting yet another sack and forcing an incompletion on third down to get the ball punted back to them. The next drives by Malden and Medford continued their mini punting contest with neither offense mustering enough to get past the defense.
Medford seemed like they were about to punt the ball deep again, but the attempt was blocked and set up Malden with great field position. Another huge run was made by Coulanges-Blaise with this one going for 34 yards and the game was nearing its end. On a second down play with 1:30 remaining, Jordan Rodriguez would run his way around the defense and reach his way over the first down marker to end the game in a thrilling ending. Malden would win 12-10 and finish with a record of 2-9.
Coach Exilhomme was given the traditional water cooler bath after a big game by the players and was very emotional to fulfill his promise to Mayor Christenson back in July. That clip is from the Mayor’s Instagram page and can be found here.
Exilhomme had to say this about the game. “It’s special, it’s very special and there is a lot of emotion in this. Second win as a head coach against a longtime rival. We’re looking as a coaching staff to start on a bright path after a difficult season.” Continuing to talk about the offseason, Exilhomme said “This is a big offseason coming up for our staff and the players who were out there, but we’re taking this energy into the offseason and the first game of next season.” He later mentioned, “This is the perfect way to end the season, especially how we started. We have a lot to be excited for and it’s a bright future. We had a great JV team that finished 7-3 which a lot of those guys were playing here today so we have a lot to build on going forward”
Being able to now be a coach and player in the Malden versus Medford rivalry, Exilhomme said “I feel great. You can’t write this any better. This is the stuff you see in movies. I’m fortunate and blessed to be in such a position. I’m greatful me and our guys were able to step up and make this city proud.”
One of the questions after the game was the starting of freshmen Brett. Exilhomme said “The decision on that was to give him a taste of what he has to look forward to as a freshman. He’s our only returning quarterback so we wanted him to get some game experience that way it can motivate him in the offseason and motivate him to see what he can do if he puts the work in.”
Coach Exilhomme had some words for quarterback Jordan Rodriguez’s final high school football game. “Jordan was our last quarterback and I was happy to see how he finished the season. It was a tough year for everyone including him since he transferred from Malden Catholic and had to learn a new offense and he did very good for us.”
Former player and current assistant coach James Brito-White talked about what the team executed on to win the game. “The kids were good at listening to coaching this week. They followed adjustments at halftime and were able to win the game. This whole season we were taking coaching the best, but they came out this week and were listening to everything.” One of the noticeable parts about the game was the turnout of fans which easily increased from a normal game since Thanksgiving is the biggest game for both sides. Brito-White talked about the power of community and the energy brought by the fans. “This is why we come together on Thanksgiving. Everyone who has played the game in years past comes here and brings great energy. I love the fans and the community and they help bring energy to the sidelines and the playing field so the guys can go out and win.”
One of the star players during the game was Davian McGuffy with his kickoff return touchdown and play at cornerback. Speaking of his touchdown, McGuffy said “It gave us the momentum we needed and I was able to see the hole, ran through it, and the rest is history.” One of the keys to winning was “putting a lot of effort into the game and we won.” This offseason is big for younger guys such as Davian who have high potential and after this he “feels good going into the offseason, I think we all take this win so we can start off early with this young team and do it again next year.”