Thanksgiving football returned to Johnston High School as the Panthers took on Scituate in what they hope will be the program’s latest annual tradition. The Panthers saved some of their best football for the fall finale, rolling to the 33-14 decision.
Johnston quarterback Matt Clements finished the day going 7-for-7, tossing touchdowns to Michael Carlino and Dylan Guernon, while Steven Finegan and Mikey Messina rushed for scores. Finegan put on another show in front of the Panther faithful, as he finished with over 150 all purpose yards and also returned a kickoff for a score.
It was the first time since 2021 that Johnston was able to play a Thanksgiving game and has struggled to find a partner over the years. Scituate, though, has already agreed to run it back next Turkey Day on its home turf, so Johnston head coach Joe Acciardo hopes that it will be a sustainable matchup moving forward.
“It was fun and I don’t think (the players) realized the times that we have gone without a game. You don’t always get to play a Thanksgiving game, so it was a tradition that they weren’t used to. With the win, it’s a good way for any program to end the season while looking forward to the next season with the underclassmen,” Acciardo said.
After a heartbreaking loss to eventual champion Middletown in the Division III Semifinals, Acciardo was happy that his players, especially the seniors, had one last opportunity to end their careers on a high note while also enjoying the different atmosphere that the holiday exhibition brings.
“It is fun when there’s no pressure, you can get other people into the end zone. It was a lot of fun. At practice, we told the guys that we were going to run some new plays, we were able to give guys some rest. It was a fun game. Obviously, our season came to that screeching halt in Middletown, it gets tough playing under the gun all the time. It was nice to be able to sit back and watch the kids have some fun,” said Acciardo.
Acciardo was proud of the senior core from this season and will remember the good times they had as they returned to the playoffs.
“It’s been an unbelievable run. A guy like Steve Finegan, he has been playing since his freshman year. We added some new guys like Dylan Guernon, we added Michael Carlino, Cam Walker. It was a great mix and a fun team to be around,” said Acciardo. “There were a lot of characters, but they were all hard-working, respectful football players. There will be a lot of great memories with these guys.”
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