Thanksgiving football tradition gets reborn at Philadelphia high school

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — “Grateful is an understatement for what I am with these young men,” said Malik Jones, Martin Luther King High School football coach. “You know, to be able to go back to my alma mater and give young people opportunities and experiences that those opportunities might not otherwise have.”

One such opportunity is the chance to usher in an old tradition for a new generation. This morning, MLK High School in East Germantown celebrated its first Thanksgiving Classic in nearly a decade.

Dating back to the 1970s, the tradition typically included a parade and ended with a football game between famous rivals, MLK High School and Germantown High School. However, when Germantown closed and merged with its rival in 2013, MLK was left without a consistent opponent.

Since then, hundreds of students have cycled in and out of the school without feeling the commotion. But the Association of Alumni wanted to reintroduce it to a new generation.

Luckily for her, Olney High School had recently entered the public school system. Now that MLK had a new rival on Thanksgiving Day, the school community thought the pomp and circumstance should return.

“We’re definitely hoping to develop a budding rivalry with Olney and trying to get some of that same energy that we had in the Germantown-King rivalry game,” said Coach Jones.

The day began with members of the Color Guard, JROTC, cheerleading squad and more marching down Mansfield Avenue to the sound of drums and honking cars. Upon arriving at Benjamin L. Johnston Memorial Stadium, they gathered the crowd until the game began.

“We do a lot of walks, peace walks, but this is different,” Principal Keisha Wilkins said. “This is a celebration of a legacy of greatness.”

In the future, Wilkins hopes to expand the parade to be more representative of the wider community surrounding MLK High School.

“The parade this year will probably have about seven out-of-school sessions,” she said. “We want everyone in the Northwest Community to be represented, all high schools, all elementary schools, just so we can show how awesome and brave we are as a Northwest Community.”

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