Some football fans went home too early for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.
They began leaving Bowen Field after Hillhouse High School sped to a 20-0 lead over crosstown rivals Wilbur Cross High School in the annual Elm City Bowl.
But the Cross Governors came back.
With less than seven minutes left on the clock, Cross was still down 20-12. Many fans began to vacate the bleachers. The Governors scored another touchdown. Jasiah Barnes scored three of them, the final one an 83-yard sprint as the clock approached 1 minute remaining.
“Go! go! Keep going!” Cross fans hollered while Hillhouse fans looked at one another in shock while Barnes crossed into the end zone.
The Cross cheerleaders hit the ground and started doing push-ups in unison amid the celebration. Final score: 26-20.
Thanksgiving Day would not be complete without the Elm City Bowl, ast he Cross-Hillhouse football rivalry brings New Haven together . This year was no different. Bowen Field was a sea of reds and blues, to express school spirit, pride, and support for the rival teams.
This game was about more than just two rival teams fighting for their shot at victory. It was about keeping tradition alive, and bringing the community together.
“I look forward to seeing old friends who I haven’t seen in years, and reminiscing on old times” said Kermit Carolina, who oversees youth engagement and intervention for the school district.
Carolina is a Cross graduate. He also served as principal of Hillhouse. So while he stood on the Hillhouse side sporting the school colors, he said he was torn between both schools and was supporting them both.
“I was bred in red, but I live blue” said Carolina concluded.
This game was a place to unapologetically express school pride, and the fans did just that. Edith Johnson, principal of Wilbur Cross High school, sported a red Cross hoodie and red lips to match, and cheered the school band on as it got ready to perform the next routine.
“My favorite part about coming to this game is the sense of community. I love seeing the band, the cheerleaders, and the alumni. It’s a great New Haven tradition,” said Johnson.
“This is the positive part of New Haven. There’s a lot of love, peace, and tradition here,” said school security guard Ron Rosarbo. “This is what brings people together. I’ve been coming to this game for 21 years now, and my favorite part about being here is seeing the alumni, and kids at Cross and Hillhouse that I had.”
Although Cross took the victory, both teams displayed character, and played with a lot of heart. Despite the many changes that New Haven has experienced throughout the years, one thing remains constant — the fans can’t wait to come back next year and experience one of New Haven’s greatest traditions.
Micaela Valentin, a student at Southern Connecticut State University, is a graduate of Wilbur Cross.