Thursday's Thanksgiving Day games — Spring-Ford at Phoenixville and Owen J. Roberts at Pottstown — mean different things to the four Pioneer Athletic Conference teams who will be taking the field for the traditional contests.
For the Rams, it's a chance for their seniors to go out as the winningest class in program history.
For the Phantoms, it's an opportunity for a young core group to continue to learn and improve at the varsity level.
And for the Wildcats and Trojans, it's the prospect of closing out otherwise moribund seasons in successful fashion.
Spring-Ford (7-1 PAC-10, 9-3 overall), which reached the District 1-AAAA quarterfinals before falling 56-27 to Neshaminy Nov. 15, has gone 31-8 over the past three years. A victory over the Phantoms (4-4, 4-8) would translate into the most victories in a three-year span in program history.
"It's the last game for the seniors,' Rams coach Chad Brubaker said. "You don't get another last game.'
One of those seniors is tailback Jarred Jones, who will close out one of the most prolific ground careers in Spring-Ford history.
The 5-11, 195-pound Jones leads the area in rushing yards (1,709), touchdowns (27) and yards per carry (10.4). He has run for 4,144 career yards.
"When Jarred has started, we've lost three games in three years (twice to Coatesville and one to Neshaminy),' Brubaker said. "That shows you some of the impact he's had on the game.'
As have defensive teammates Robby Varner and Mason Romano, the catalysts of the Rams' defensive line.
"Robby and Mason obviously have contributed greatly to our success,' Brubaker said. "Other teams have talked about how they've game-planned to stay away from those two as much as they can, and I think that's a testament to how they've played defense.'
Brubaker said he plans to start senior Zac DeMedio at quarterback, with junior Matt Daywalt also slated to get some snaps.
"Zac's been a team player the whole year,' Brubaker said. "He's done everything we've asked him, and he deserves this opportunity in his last high school game.'
Phoenixville coach Bill Furlong is hoping his squad makes the most out of its opportunity to try and take down the Rams for the second straight year. Last season, with Spring-Ford in the District 1-AAAA semifinals, the Rams played their JVs and Phoenixville won in a 49-0 rout.
This season, the Phantoms (like the Rams) have had more than their fair share of injury issues, with Furlong having to adjust on the fly and send out a makeshift lineup rife with underclassmen on several occasions.
Furlong is hopeful senior safety Kyle Karkoska will return after missing the past five games due to a broken fibula, though it's doubtful Karkoska will be playing quarterback. Also, lineman Jason Waltman (wrist) may return as well.
"Any one (of the rash of injured players) may not have made a difference in every given game,' Furlong said. "But you start adding all of them up, and some of those losses when we were giving up 60 points may have been better games.
"A few years ago we were in the same boat. In 2010 we were decimated by injuries and a bunch of guys went down, then in 2011 we came back healthy and had a pretty good season. You have to look at it in the big picture, and hopefully this forced, baptism-by-fire for these kids will pay off down the road.'
Justin McDougal has rushed for a team-high 617 yards for the Phantoms, including 118 in their last game, a 21-10 loss at Quakertown Nov. 15.
Spring-Ford leads the PAC-10 series 15-12, while Phoenixville leads the overall series 28-25-5.
"It's a rivalry game,' Furlong said. "It's Thanksgiving; anything can happen. We just have to play our best game. If we play without making mistakes, I think we'll be in position to have a chance. If we don't, we'll have our hands full.'
Owen J. Roberts (2-6, 2-9) and Pottstown (1-7, 1-10) will be meeting for the 55th time this morning at 10 a.m. at Grigg Memorial Field. Owen J. Roberts leads the series 32-21-1, though Pottstown has won the last two meetings — including a 26-21 win last year.
After an 0-6 start, OJR has gone 2-3, and a win over the Trojans would go a long way for the Wildcats, according to coach Tom Barr.
"It would be something major for our seniors,' Barr said. "And for our underclassmen it would be something we can work off heading into next year, a good springboard.'
OJR senior workhorse Wyatt Scott has rushed for 1,167 yards and 10 touchdowns and averages 25 carries per game.
"Wyatt's been a hard-working kid all season,' Barr said. "He's a quiet kid, but he does a lot of talking on the field by his actions. He's a determined player. He wants to do his best and wants to do whatever it takes to help his team win.'
On the other side of the ball, Will Dawson (six sacks) and Bill Scherfel (five sacks) have been bright spots of late.
"The second half of the year, we've executed better as a team and have had a better attitude on the practice field and in games,' Barr said. "How we approach the game has improved.'
Pottstown will be taking the field for the first time since Nov. 8, when the Trojans fell 35-7 to Great Valley.
It will be the first taste of Thanksgiving Day football for first-year Pottstown coach Don Grinstead.
"I think it's special,' Grinstead said. "It's a time to be grateful and be thankful for what you have and for your teammates. And we want to do everything we can to keep the trophy on our side.'
The Trojans opened the season 0-7 before taking down Upper Perkiomen 28-14 in Week 8. But shortly thereafter, off-the-field issues depleted their roster and Pottstown has been outscored 122-20 in losing three straight to Methacton, Spring-Ford and Great Valley.
Quarterback Gary Wise has run for a team-high 461 yards and seven touchdowns while throwing for 918 yards and eight more scores, while Grinstead lauded the recent play of running back/safety Brandon Tinson and stalwart lineman Jalonte Lighty.
"It would be extremely great for our kids to come away with a win,' Grinstead said. "At the end of the day it's about them. This hasn't exactly been a smooth season, but I have 25 kids on my team that all care. They've all sacrificed, and it would mean a lot for them for all they've been through, and a great way to get ready for next year.'
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.