At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal when Mike Addesa, an Old Forge sophomore, missed an extra point kick in the second quarter of the 1972 high school Thanksgiving game against Riverside.
But it was a big deal, at least within the game. The Blue Devils were heavy underdogs; even a tie would have been a major upset.
“We had them on the ropes, but we wound up losing, 7-6,” Addesa said.
Riverside scored a touchdown after a 64-yard pass late in the fourth quarter and made the extra point kick.
Everyone was emotional, Addesa more than most.
After all, he had just transferred to Old Forge from Riverside, where he’d been the quarterback for the Riverside freshman team the previous two seasons. So he had friends on the Riverside team, including Mike Morgan who he met in Little League and who was the holder on the Vikings winning extra point.
But not all of his Riverside friends were friendly during the ’72 Turkey Day game.
“Some of them wanted me to pay for leaving,” Addesa said.
Even as a freshman, it was evident Addesa was going to be a star.
“We had big plans for him at Riverside,” Morgan said.
The Old Forge fans learned fast what they had when Addesa came to Old Forge. In his first game with Old Forge, he was named MVP by the radio station broadcasting the game. At the Thanksgiving game, fans held a sign that read, “Eat Your Heart Out Vikings, Addesa is a Blue Devil now,” and chanted “Addesa is a Blue Devil.”
The next year, 1973, Riverside won again on an unseasonably warm day. So 1974 was Addesa’s last chance to beat his old friends, now rivals, on Thanksgiving. In what would turn out to be the last Thanksgiving game in the Triboro area, Addesa made the best of his chance. He rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries, scored a touchdown, had a 30-yard run in another touchdown drive, scored a 2-point conversion, kicked a PAT and had two interceptions.
Old Forge won 21-0 in what was described as “a mud bath.” Players uniforms were obliterated after the first series of plays. Old Forge finished 6-5, Riverside, 4-6-1.
Addesa has vivid memories of Thanksgiving football going back to when he was a little kid in Scranton, where his father took him to Tech-Central games. They moved to Taylor when he was 10, where he got caught up in the Old Forge-Riverside Thanksgiving day mania.
“Those Thanksgiving games were something – bonfires, pep rallies. The players were super-hyped to play in front of family and friends from out of town. It was an extra-special game. Everybody went to the game. Five or six thousand. Stands filled, standing four deep around the field. For people coming home to be with family for the holiday, the game was on their schedule. It was part of the holiday ritual, part of the fabric of the culture. It was quite a tradition.
“And there were fights. They didn’t like each other. I’m not sure where that came from.”
In high school, having been at both schools and knowing kids from both sides, Addesa tried act as a peacemaker when things got hot.
Morgan has similar memories.
“It was part of the holiday when I was a kid,” he said. “Going to the game, back home for the family meal, spending the day together. The fields were a mile apart and the student bodies would march to the games. There was no game the week before, so the build up was almost two weeks. That made the game even more special. It was a whole different setting. The fans were four deep around the field, and the stands are right on top of field. You could feel their energy. The R & L Club gave MVPs and Mike and I won in that last game. The opposing coach picked it. It was a great honor.”
Riverside coach Bill Kasulis chose Addesa. Old Forge Coach Elio Ghigiarelli chose Mike Morgan.
“It’s funny in a rivalry after the dust settles you can be lifelong friends and have respect for one another.”
Morgan laughed when he recalled what he said when he held for the winning point in the ’72 game.
“I asked the kicker, ‘do you want me to run it in?’ It was a great rivalry between Taylor and Moosic and Old Forge. It goes back.”
Morgan went to Bloomsburg University, came back to Taylor and taught and coached basketball at Riverside for 23 years. He and his wife, Linda, have a son Mike and a daughter, Holly. His son played basketball for him at Riverside. He was a 6-5 guard, made third team all-state and played at Wilkes University. Riverside and the Morgans had some epic battles with Bishop Hannan phenom Gerry McNamara. Daughter, Holly also played basketball for Riverside.
Addesa went to Duke University on an athletic scholarship. He played, appropriately, for the Blue Devils from 1975 to 1979. He married his high school sweetheart, Donna, a medical technician, after his sophomore year at Duke. They have two daughters, Arianne, a teacher at Old Forge High School, and Dana, a nurse at Scranton Regional Hospital. He is the president of Invicta Mortgage Group, Inc. and a partner with Intelacare Disease Management Company, which designs Artificial Intelligence for healthcare.
Thanksgiving day high school football in the Triboro area has been passed exactly as long as it existed.
The last game was an Old Forge - Riverside game in 1974, 45 years ago, while the first Thanksgiving day game involving a Triboro team was 45 years earlier in 1929.
In the 1929 game, Old Forge quarterback Nese scored four touchdowns for coach Fiore Cesare in a 47-0 win over Duryea. Attendance was 3,000. It was the start of an eight-game Old Forge-Duryea Thanksgiving Day series in which Duryea did not win a game and scored only 12 points. Old Forge won the first seven games and the eighth one was a 0-0 tie at Albert West Park in Pittston. Old Forge threw two incomplete passes into end zone from the 10 on the last two plays of the game.
Old Forge played Dunmore on Thanksgiving in ’37 and ’38. Dunmore won the first 19-0 and the second was a 6-6 tie.
Old Forge did not play a Thanksgiving game in 1939, the year Taylor played its first Thanksgiving day game in Clarks Summit, where they lost 13-6. Clarks Summit was coached by Tom Jones who was described as “ a former Taylor great.” Chundak scored for Taylor. An estimated 2,500 fans saw the game. That was a standalone game. In 1940, Taylor and Old Forge started a series that would last through two mergers and 35 years.
Moosic High School played two Thanksgiving series against Dupont from 1947 to ‘55 and Avoca from 1956 to ’60. Moosic won three games against Dupont, Dupont won one and three were ties. The Moosic/Avoca series ended 2-2-1.
Back to the Old Forge/Taylor series. Taylor won nine of the first 10 games from 1940 to 1949. But beginning in 1950, a team with Taylor in its name — Taylor and then Taylor-Moosic— would never beat Old Forge again over 16 Thanksgivings from 1950 to 1965. In 1966 the Riverside merger finally broke the jinx. What happened to turn the series so decisively for Old Forge?
Two words: Elio Ghigiarelli.
Old Forge had gone through five coaches between 1940 and 1946, before hiring Ghigiarelli in 1947. Ghigiarelli coached for 30 years compiling a 202-89-27 overall record and an 19-5-4 record on Thanksgiving. He was so beloved, it was said he could run for mayor. He did, and won in 1969. He retired from coaching after the 1976 season. He died at age 90 in 2007.
Addesa played for Ghigiarelli and talked about the legendary coach.
“Well, first of all he knew the game,” Addesa said. “He was a tremendous defensive coach with a lot of different schemes. He was relentless teaching fundamentals and techniques. Because I was small, that gave me an advantage at the college level.”
Addesa, 5-11, was 165 as a freshman at Duke and 184 as a sophomore. Switched to fullback as a junior he played at 210 and then 195 as a tailback as a senior.
Old Forge - Taylor
Year winner score
1940 Taylor 7-4
1941 Taylor 9-0
1942 Taylor 26-0
1943 Taylor 6-0
1944 Taylor 19-0
1945 Taylor 20-0
1946 Taylor 19-6
1947 Taylor 6-2
1948 OF 13-6
1949 Taylor 26-7
1950 TIE 6-6
1951 OF 7-0
1952 OF 52-12
1953 OF 20-6
1954 OF 36-0
1955 OF 7-0
1956 TIE 6-6
1957 OF 28-7
1958 OF 54-14
1959 OF 19-6
1960 OF 45-12
Old Forge - Taylor - Moosic
Year winner score
1961 OF 54-13
1962 OF 32-0
1963 OF 31-6
1964 OF 31-6
1965 OF 38-0
Old Forge - Riverside
Year winner score
1966 River 7-6
1967 TIE 0-0
1968 OF 26-6
1969 OF 21-0
1970 OF 47-6
1971 TIE 0-0 (Sat. Snow)
1972 River 7-6
1973 River 24-6
1974 OF 21-0