Warwick Vets to host Thanksgiving game, maybe its last

The rivalry between two of Warwick's high schools goes back 50 years, but it may be coming to an end.

Last year's Thanksgiving game was played at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, so this year's game was scheduled to be played at Pilgrim High School.

But Pilgrim principal Marie Cote offered Vets to host this time, as it might be Vets' last game. The school district is considering a proposal to convert Veterans into a junior high because of declining enrollment.

"I would say a very emotional game for us going into their house. My seniors are a little upset," Cote said. "I'm sure the whole football team's a little upset. But we need to do the right thing."

Vets principal Jerry Habershaw was grateful.

"It was a tremendous gesture on her part, very generous. I discussed it with my athletic director and we decided to take the game," said Jerry Habershaw, principal of Vets.

It's not a done deal that Warwick Vets will be the sacrificial lamb.

"Everybody agrees that we need to consolidate a school but, unfortunately, please don't do my school. It's that type of thing. It's not that were heartless. This should not be viewed as a negative thing," school superintendent Richard D'Agostino said.

"If this is going to happen, then we need to reach out and say, 'Hey, let's help you one step at a time,'" Cote said.

Both schools have had student populations that decreased from about 1,500 to 1,800 over the past decade. Parents and students have protested the proposal that administrators say would save $11 million the first year and $4 million a year after that.

If Vets closes, half the current students would go to Pilgrim and the other half to Toll Gate. The city's two junior high schools would merge and move into Vets.

"I have a group of alumni students, we're going to sing the national anthem. So we're just hoping that it's just a good day. I'm sure the players will have good sportsmanship and it'll be a fun day," Habershaw said.

The Warwick School Committee will consider the consolidation proposal in December.