BVT, Nipmuc set for another cross-street series Coaching rivalry adds new twist to holiday matchup
By Chris Villani
Blackstone Valley Tech and Nipmuc will renew their annual gridiron rivalry this Thanksgiving with both teams having put together playing-contending campaigns. But this year’s series has a new wrinkle with the addition of first-year Nipmuc head coach James Royster.
A member of two Super Bowl winning teams as a player at Northbridge, Royster faced off on Turkey Day against BVT head coach Anthony Landini when he played at Uxbridge. The two also worked together on the BVT staff for several seasons.
“I know all of those guys, I played against Landini, this rivalry is huge,” Royster said. “I can’t wait.”
Landini said it has added an extra dynamic to an already special day to have one of his friends leading the team on the opposing sideline.
“We’ve been harassing each other a little on social media,” he said. “It’s good fun.”
It’s cliché to say, but the records seem to matter little when Nipmuc and BVT square off on Thanksgiving. BVT has gotten the better of its rival in recent seasons, racking up five straight wins and a 10-4 overall series edge. Both teams put together solid seasons this year. Nipmuc bounced back from some down years to post a winning record despite suffering a rash of injuries late in the season.
Middle linebacker Jack Byrne has been a standout along with quarterback Josh Giancola and jack-of-all-trades Leo Polanco.
“Leo has been asked to do a lot and shoulder the load,” Royster said. “He’s a great cornerback, people usually don’t throw in his direction.”
Valley Tech rebounded after a slow start behind quarterback Alex Burgos, receiver and outside linebacker Nick Whitlock, and running back Adam Fransen, who recently posted a game with 140 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
“A lot of people have been stepping up,” Landini said. “Our line is playing better and the defense only allowed about 20 points over three games.”
There are no bus rides on Thanksgiving in this series, Nipmuc will walk across a closed off Pleasant Street to take on BVT. Both coaches said the atmosphere will be special.
“It’s Thanksgiving morning, it’s most of these guys' last games as seniors,” Landini said. “You get to play in the morning, there’s frost on the field and you don’t know what the weather will be.”
“This is all they know, this is what they grew up on,” Royster said. “This game is all we talked about until the season started, we are going to be locked in.”