The following is the final story in a series of Thanksgiving football previews.
Going into Thursday’s 127th playing of the nation’s oldest continuous high school football game against Boston Latin, Boston English will be much more confident in its ability to hang with the Wolfpack than it has been in the last decade.
Boston English has even created the hashtag #GoEnglishBeatLatin for Thursday’s 10 a.m. meeting at Harvard Stadium.
“All Boston English alumni please come support the 2013 Boston English football team
on Thanksgiving vs. Boston Latin (5-5)!” first-year coach Brian Vaughan posted on the English High Alumni Association’s Facebook page over the weekend. “The 2013 football team is now 6-4 (1st winning season in  years). The team is led by Jr. QB Emmanuel Almonte, who is one of the top players in the state with over 1,500 yards rushing, 846 yards passing, & 20 total TDs. My name is Brian Vaughan and this is my first year as head coach. The team has worked hard on and off the field all season and we are trying to bring Boston English Football back to where it should be. Looking forward to seeing everybody on Thanksgiving.
A little context is needed to understand English’s enthusiasm for having a winning record going into its rivalry game: English’s only victory against Latin since 1981 was in 1997. And the last time English had a winning record going into Thanksgiving was in 2004, when it lost, 44-0. Since that game, Latin has won by an average of 29 points.
After English won its first non-forfeit game since 2009 last season, it seemed like the team was poised to compete on Turkey Day against a Latin team that had only one victory. But the usual combination of injuries and academic ineligibility conspired against them. English nearly had to forfeit the game but ended up fielding enough players for a 44-15 loss.
This year the team has won five of its last six games and is currently on a three-game win streak.
“I think it’s big,” Vaughan said of the win streak. “Especially with the seniors, I’m so honored to be part of these seniors. They’ve come through so much, just the adversity, the overall direction of where the program was going to where we are trying to get it to now. They took whatever we threw at them.
“We’re confident, not cocky because they know the test ahead of us. But we definitely feel good about it.”
But after beating Lynn Tech, 24-6, English’s last game was a 44-18 win against Minuteman because Marian forfeited the following week.
“We’re definitely worried about that, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do about that now,” Vaughan said. “Our main goal is to just prepare guys and make sure we know what we’re doing when we line up against a really good Latin team.”
Latin is on its own three-game win streak, beating Medford, 25-21, Salem, 21-7, and Belmont, 40-29. But after Latin opened the season 2-0, senior running back Patrick Fahy tore his ACL and meniscus on the first play of a loss in Week 3 to North Quincy. After that the Wolfpack went on a five-game slide.
Since Week 3, Latin has used a bevy of players to fill his shoes, including senior Pat O’Grady, senior Jack O’Toole, sophomore Justin Springle, sophomore Danny Bohan, and junior Duncan McGaff.
“It was peak, a valley, and a peak,” Latin coach John McDonough said. “Of course it’s good for everybody, it’s always fun to win. It instills a little confidence in you. The kids are looking forward to Thursday.”
McDonough will be coaching Latin on Thanksgiving morning for the 33d straight year.
“It’s not about history,” McDonough said. “That’s not even a thought. It’s a football game, it’s the last game of the season. Besides the rivalry aspect, it’s the last game of season and half the teams in the state lose the last game and we don’t want to be a part of that.
“We’re looking forward to it. I hope we get some decent weather so it doesn't impact people’s enjoyment of the game. Last year was sunny and 60. You couldn't ask for a better day, but it’s late November.”
Vaughan's first order of business when he was hired as Boston English coach last spring was to print up workout shirts that simply read “Beat Latin.”
“We got them for the summer, those are summer workout shirts,” Vaughan said. “Those are supposed to be white but by now they are like gray or black, I don’t even know.
"So I know all about Thanksgiving and what it means to a lot of high school teams. I’m from Lynn and to this day this weekend I’ll see friends and we’ll talk about Thanksgiving battles we had against each other.
“I’m excited just because of the history of the game and it’s just another opportunity for this program to take another step in the right direction. Again, it’s not going to be easy. We’re fighting an uphill battle. But I think it’s a battle our guys are willing to accept.”
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