AMESBURY — Thom Connors devised a grand exit plan early in his tenure as the Amesbury football coach.
Eight years ago, he watched his son, Tommy, host his fourth-grade friends at the Connors home. The kids played in the pool, threw the ball around,and invented all kinds of different games, so long as they were competing against each other. Coach Connors marked 2012 on his calendar as his final year of coaching football.
“Eight or nine years ago, my thoughts were that I’d see it through until these guys graduate, and then I’d retire,” Connors said. “I never expected it to go this fast.”
Connors has yet to make a concrete decision regarding his retirement plans, but if he is to walk away at the conclusion of this season, he could have as few as one game remaining in his coaching tenure. Amesbury (8-2 overall, 4-0 CAL) and Newburyport (6-4 overall, 3-1) will meet Thursday morning in 90th meeting between the schools. Although the Indians have already clinched a share of the Cape Ann League Division 3 title, this year’s Thanksgiving matchup will determine which of the two teams will advance to the postseason. The losing team’s season will end Thursday.
It is the first time since 2008 in which the stakes will be this high for a Newburyport-Amesbury Thanksgiving game. Amesbury won in 2008 before going on to win the Division 3A Super Bowl.
Connors sees many similarities between this year’s senior class and the group that played in 2008.
“In 2008, my first real recognition came when they were freshmen because they were undefeated,” Connors said. “I knew from that point, they’d have a special team when they all played as seniors. This year’s seniors, I’ve known most of their lives. Many have slept over at my house, swam in my pool and played in the back yard. These guys have gotten better and better every year.”