But not everyone knows the history of Thanksgiving Day football. No one, in fact, knows exactly why high school football became so identified with the day, except that Thanksgiving usually stands as the unofficial end of autumn.
Perhaps a rogue Pilgrim grabbed a pumpkin from his neighbor's patch, shoved the pumpkin under his arm, and rushed for the nearest fence line.
But there are scads of interesting facts about Thanksgiving Day football in South Jersey without ever thinking about the Pilgrims.
For instance, few fans know that one of the area's most prominent Thanksgiving Day rivalries was not always played on Thanksgiving or in the daytime. It also is the only rivalry ever to be played indoors.
Of course, it is the Atlantic City-Holy Spirit game, which for years was played indoors in Atlantic City's Convention Hall on the night before Thanksgiving.
So here is a brief look at some of the more famous of the South Jersey Thanksgiving Day games. Dare we say it? Games to be thankful for:
* The first game of the now-defunct Ocean City-Pleasantville series took place the year the United States entered World War I, 1917. Pleasantville reacted to the heightened militarism of the day by rolling up the astonishing score of 107-6.
* Who can ever forget the 4-4 tie between Vineland and Millville in 1895?
* Salem and Woodstown first played in 1911, but the series was sporadic for more than a decade. In 1924, the two Salem County towns played a 7-0 game that created such a thirst for revenge in the vanquished community of Woodstown that the game has been played continuously ever since.
* In 1944, Haddon Heights entered its annual game against Haddonfield (the two have played since 1902) without having surrendered a single point. The Garnets didn't give up a point on Thanksgiving Day, but still failed to win as Haddonfield held them to a 0-0 tie. Thus, the only team in South Jersey history to be unscored upon in a nine-game schedule didn't even manage to go 9-0.
* In 1955, Millville had won 31 straight games entering the annual grudge game with Vineland, one short of the state record of that day. The game drew national attention - the Millville players were promised an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show if they won - but Vineland took a 27-6 upset that still is recounted by old-timers in both towns.
* In 1966, a then-obscure Rancocas Valley junior named Franco Harris clinched a 20-6 win for the Red Devils by running back an onside kick for a 70-yard touchdown in the closing minutes.
* In 1989, six inches of snow blitzed the Philadelphia area on Thanksgiving Day. It was the first time there had been snow on the streets of Philadelphia for the annual parade since 1941. Only two games in South Jersey were played that day: Washington Township-Deptford and Florence-Riverside. The field at Florence was covered with snow and no lines were visible. Orange cones borrowed from a construction site served as yard-line markers. Both Florence and Riverside entered the game 0-8 for the first time in the history of a rivalry that started in 1942. Florence sledded to a 14-12 victory.
The years in which South Jersey's nine
oldest Thanksgiving Day rivalries began.
* 1894 - Millville vs. Vineland.
* 1902 - Haddonfield vs. Haddon Heights.
* 1909 - Burlington vs. Palmyra.
* 1911 - Salem vs. Woodstown.
* 1925 - Clayton vs. Pitman.
* 1926 - Atlantic City vs. Holy Spirit.
* 1926 - Penns Grove vs. Kingsway.
* 1933 - Camden vs. Woodrow Wilson.
* 1942 - Florence vs. Riverside.