By Maximillian C. Burgos | Staff Writer
Linden, New Jersey — The 75th annual Thanksgiving game for Linden High School was a bittersweet occasion for friends and family watching the game. While it was nice that New York Jets defensive lineman and LHS alumnus Muhammad Wilkerson got his high school football jersey retired for all of his services in the community, it would have been even better if Linden’s varsity football team could have pulled out the win.
“It’s a great game to come out to,” Linden head coach Albert Chiola said. “There’s a lot of traditions, it’s been going on for 75-years. I thought that our kids handled themselves well considering all of the festivities before the game. Union obliviously did too and they just wanted it more than us in this game. They worked hard for it. They did a great job.”
Linden ultimately lost the game 22-19 to the Union High School Farmers. For the second straight year, the Farmers walked away with the Thanksgiving Trophy that goes to the team that wins the annual Thanksgiving game between the two rivals.
Both teams had their fair share of struggles throughout the game, but Linden’s struggles were compounded by the penalties and mistakes that they accumulated on offense. On their sixth drive of the game, Linden lost 26-yards on the drive.
Out of those 26-yards lost, 17 were due to a bad decision by the quarterback, which led to a sack and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Tigers. The other loss of nine was a bad snap that Linden quarterback Zion Marshall had to chance down before Union could recover it.
There were bright spots on the Linden offense. Linden running back Brandon George amassed 156 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while also managing to connect with wide receiver Markel McDuffie on a 15-yard touchdown pass.
“He put the team on his back and he carried them,” Chiola said, in praise of his running back. “Thanks what championships do.”
While George may have played like a champion, it was Union quarterback Andrew Sanborn that won the game for his team. Sanborn threw for 87 yards and two touchdowns, while also contributing a touchdown on the ground.
At halftime, Union was in the lead by one point. When they set up to receive the kickoff, Linden surprised them with a pooch kick, which Linden was able to recover, giving them stellar field position to work with.
“It’s something we worked on in practice,” Chiola said. “We decided to give it a try. It worked the first time and not the second.”
In four plays, Linden took the ball down the field and scored on a rushing play. Giving them their second lead of the game 12-7. The Tigers tried to pooch kick it a second time, but could not get to the ball in time.
Union came back and in four plays, answered the Linden score with a 39-yard bomb from Sanborn that found wide open receiver Andy Martin for a touchdown. The Union fans celebrated in the stands as the Linden team was visibly defeated on the field. Union re-established itself in the lead 15-12 after a successful two-point conversion.
On the next Union drive, they drove 63 yards down the field to score again. This time, Sanford snuck the ball through the middle of the line to score. Union would score another two-point conversion to extend the score out to 22-12.
Linden would drive down the field and score again, but the drive took too much time off the clock, giving the Tigers little chance to finish the comeback. They would score, putting the score at 22-19, but it was too little too late.
The game ultimately came down to the blocked field goal early in the game that put Linden in a predicament for their extra point tries. Union simply edged them out just enough.
Linden ultimately ends its season 5-5. Union spoiled the Tigers homecoming game, getting them to 4-6 on their season.
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