THE MOTIVE for each team is the same. The Manchester Central and Trinity of Manchester football teams will both be looking to wipe away the bad taste of a playoff loss when they meet this morning (10:15) at Gill Stadium.
The Division I portion of Central's season ended Nov. 9, when it dropped a 53-14 decision to Concord in the Division I (North) championship game. Trinity hasn't played since Nov. 16, when it suffered an 18-14 loss to Portsmouth in the Division II semifinals.
Today's game is all about bragging rights, and finishing the season on a positive note.
"One of our goals every year is to play in the Thanksgiving Day game and win it," Central coach Ryan Ray said. "I don't think motivation will be a concern for either team."
Today's meeting will be the 33rd annual Manchester Turkey Bowl. Trinity (8-3) beat Central (7-3) 27-21 on Thanksgiving Day last year. The Pioneers will be trying to win back-to-back city championships for the first time since 1990-91, when they beat Memorial (28-16) and West (27-16).
"This is a proud group," Trinity coach Steve Burns said. "The kids are excited about it."
Trinity's defense will be focused on stopping Central running back Jesiah Wade, who enters the game with 2,204 yards and 28 touchdowns (25 rushing, three receiving). Wade rushed for 556 yards in a regular-season victory over Merrimack. Wade also gained more than 2,000 yards on the ground last season, when he played for Campbell of Litchfield.
"Everybody in the state knows who Jesiah Wade is," Burns said. "I've been reading about Manny Latimore becoming Pinkerton's all-time leading rusher (with 4,142 yards). Wade has more than that in two seasons.
"We're going to have to move the ball. Then he's not on the field — he's not touching the ball."
Although Trinity prefers to run the ball, senior quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi has passed for 999 yards and 15 touchdowns this season (11 interceptions). Austin Chambers is the team's leading rusher with 846 yards and 10 touchdowns on 97 carries. Brad Rhoades is next with 811 yards and eight touchdowns on 111 carries.
"Trinity is a very good, very solid football team," Ray said. "They were certainly one of the better teams in Division II, and looking at them on film I'm sure they would have been competitive in Division I."
Ray said Wade will likely play prep school football next season. New Hampton, Tilton, Worcester (Mass.) Academy and Bridgton (Maine) Academy are among the possibilities.
"He could certainly play in college, but I think he has his sights set on a year of prep school." Ray said. "He wants to get bigger, stronger. He feels pretty comfortable going the prep school route.
"We knew he was going to be a very good Division I back. We didn't know he was going to be a spectacular Division I back. Each and every week he got a little better. By Week 3 or 4 he became our best option on every play."
Today's game will be the 11th time Central and Trinity have met on Thanksgiving. The Pioneers are 7-3 against the Little Green. ... All but one Manchester Turkey Bowl has been played at Gill Stadium. The 2003 game was played at West Memorial Field. ... Trinity will be the "home'' team for today's contest.
Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.