The always special Thanksgiving game between East Boston and South Boston was even more so because this year marked the 100th meeting between the cross-harbor rivals.
But for the Jets, yesterday’s game carried some personal significance. Eastie coach John Parziale’s mother, Lydia, passed away two weeks ago, and winning the game in her honor became extra motivation. They didn’t disappoint themselves or their coach, grinding out a 22-6 victory at a frigid East Boston Stadium.
“It was emotional for the kids and myself,” said Parziale, whose mother would have turned 79 on Thanksgiving. “This was tough. She passed away, and we won the last two games for her, and today happened to be her birthday, so the kids were pumped. They responded really well. It’s been a tough go the last few weeks for myself personally, but the kids are great.”
The game was not decided until midway through the the fourth quarter. With Eastie clinging to a 6-0 lead, Jets defensive back Kasey Vasquez picked off Southie quarterback Nathan Martin in Knights territory. Four plays later, Eastie quarterback Dom Russo scored on a 5-yard keeper. After Russo added the two-point conversion, the Jets owned a formidable 14-0 lead with 6:29 remaining.
“It was cold, everyone was freezing, but it wasn’t stopping me. Still making plays on defense and offense,” said Vasquez, a senior who later added a touchdown.
Given the weather, the running game was critical. Eastie established the run on its first drive, which eneded as an unsuccessful incursion into Southie territory. Senior running back Nate Mattera did most of the work as the Jets took it all the way down to the Southie 13 before a costly illegal block penalty stalled the drive and they turned the ball over on downs at the 15.
The Knights then answered with a clock-munching drive of their own, making it all the way to the Eastie 35 before Michael Zelaya came up with a big sack of Martin. South Boston turned it over on downs.
Eastie broke the scoreless tie on its next possession, a 14-play scoring drive that culminated in a 6-yard Mattera run with 2:04 left in the half. Mattera’s two-point conversion was stopped at the goal line, and Eastie had to settle for a 6-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the fourth quarter, when Vasquez made his interception near midfield and returned it to the Southie 27, setting up Russo’s TD.
Vasquez added a 28-yard run and a two-point conversion.
Southie scored on the final play of the game on a Martin-to-Daniel Austin pass, but the day belonged to the Jets.
“I’ve got to give Southie credit,” Parziale said. “They played really, really well. It’s always a rivary. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 100th, the 99th or the 101st, our kids take it very seriously. It’s huge for this community. It’s huge for these kids. They come to school, they breathe it, they live it, they love it.”