Discovery’s football program is excited about this week’s turkey, courtesy of assistant coach Kenan Dever.
“He’s the turkey-frying guy,” Titans head coach Efrem Hill said.
How does the turkey taste?
“He’s talked about it,” Hill said. “I don’t know. Normally about this time of year we’ve all gone our separate ways.”
Football practice on Thanksgiving is a first-time experience for Discovery, and a special treat for 16 Gwinnett high schools heading into the first round of the state playoffs Friday. The holiday week practices are typically reserved for teams headed to the state quarterfinals, but a schedule readjusted by COVID-19 has given more teams the special experience of Thanksgiving practices.
And the Titans aren’t alone.
Meadowcreek will hold its first Thanksgiving practice in school history this week, something the coaches had to explain.
“It’s a first for Meadowcreek parents and kids,” Mustang head coach Jason Carrera said. “They were in shock, ‘What do you mean? We go out of town on Thanksgiving?’ I said, ‘No, you play football now.’”
Hill had the same conversations at Discovery.
“At the beginning of the year, I actually sent an email out when the schedules came out and told the parents we do expect to make the playoffs, so please make different plans,” Hill said. “I got five or six emails Saturday asking about the schedule. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun for them. We’ll try to do some fun things for them at practice (Thursday).”
Along with Discovery and Meadowcreek, Archer, Brookwood, Buford, Collins Hill, Dacula, Grayson, Greater Atlanta Christian, Hebron Christian, Mill Creek, Norcross, North Gwinnett, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge and Wesleyan also have a holiday week of football work while class isn’t in session.
Unlike Discovery and Meadowcreek, it isn’t unusual for many of those football programs to have Thanksgiving practices. They are eager to keep those traditions going, even if the holiday week falls two weeks earlier in the postseason.
“Thanksgiving’s still Thanksgiving,” Archer head coach Andy Dyer said. “The Dallas Cowboys are supposed to play and the Archer Tigers are supposed to play.”
The last time Buford didn’t practice on Thanksgiving was 1999.
“I’ve never had a season in my time at Buford that we haven’t had practice on Thanksgiving,” said Wolves head coach Bryant Appling, at the school since 2004. “We always have traditions on Thanksgiving and on the night before Thanksgiving with a team-bonding type of function. It’s been really cool to have because a lot of people never get a chance to play on Thanksgiving.”
For most football teams, Thursday means a walk-through practice the day before the game. The Thanksgiving experience also includes a team gathering and a meal, but those breakfasts also have been revamped this year.
“We will have to pre-package our meals instead of self-serve this year,” Parkview head coach Eric Godfree said. “But we still want to keep our traditions going.”