Fitch, Ledyard feel lost without chance to play for Colonel Ledyard Sword
Senior Walker Lenz is Ledyard born-and-bred, which means that Fitch-Ledyard football has been a Thanksgiving constant in his life.
“Every year, for my entire life, really, that’s been the tradition,” Lenz said. “We’d go and watch the Thanksgiving Day game, and since I’ve been in high school, every year I’ve been suiting up for the game.
“It’s definitely weird not having it.”
Fitch head coach Mike Ellis Jr., too, has also spent almost every Thanksgiving Day of his life at a high school football game as either the son of a coach (his father, Mike Sr., is a former Fitch head coach), a Stonington High player, and as the former head coach at Waterford and current head coach at Fitch.
“I can remember being on the sidelines with my father as far back as 1977 as a kid watching the Thanksgiving Day games against New London,” Ellis said. “I’m kind of dating myself.”
First-year Ledyard head coach and Connecticut native Mike Serricchio has yet to participate in a Thanksgiving Day game.
“When we were at King (a private school in Stamford), we always wanted to play on Thanksgiving,” Serricchio said. “It’s the pageantry. It’s an American tradition. The stakes are always taken up another notch.”
Fitch vs. Ledyard didn’t become Thanksgiving Day rivals until 2000 when the Eastern Connecticut Conference merged with Quinebaug Valley Conference, adding the likes of Griswold, Plainfield and Putnam, which had played football in the Pequot Football Conference.
Fitch would play the Colonels the weekend before Thanksgiving and play New London on Thanksgiving. Ledyard didn’t have a holiday rival up to that point.
The Colonels vs. Falcons do have one of the best trophies among all state high school football rivalry games — the Colonel Ledyard Sword. The sword is attached to a large plaque and honors Lieutenant Colonel William Ledyard, who was killed during the American Revolutionary War. He commanded Fort Griswold in Groton and fought against British forces during the Battle of Groton Heights on Sept. 6, 1781.
“We talk about the importance of it and where it came from so they understand,” Ellis said.
Serricchio learned about the Fitch-Ledyard rivalry while playing offensive line at Springfield College. One of his teammates was Bobby Bozym, a former Colonels lineman.
“Bobby told us one day about Colonel Ledyard’s last stand,” Serricchio said. “He told the full story of Colonel Ledyard and it was captivating. Everyone (in eastern Connecticut) is aware of the sword and how (Ledyard has) struggled recently. We were really looking forward to trying to get it back, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Among Ellis’ favorite Thanksgiving Day football memories was in 1986 when he and Stonington beat Westerly, 13-0. Another was Fitch’s 6-0 overtime win over Ledyard on Nov. 24, 2016.
“That was the first time in 10 years Fitch won the Thanksgiving Day game,” Ellis said. “That crew stands out to me because since that game, we’ve been kind of a decent program we’ve been able to compete with most teams that we’ve played, and I think that game was a little bit of a turning point for us.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do (on Thanksgiving morning).”
Asked what he was going to do Thanksgiving morning, Lenz chuckled, “I guess nothing. I don’t know. Going to have to wait-and-see.”