Special to the Auburn Mass Daily

A new tradition will be established at Worcester State when Auburn and Holy Name play this Thanksgiving day game. Alumni from the football teams on both sides of the line of scrimmage have coordinated their efforts in establishing a new tradition for the victors of this Turkey Day matchup.

black and blueThe “Black and Blue Trophy,”  – aptly named for both the schools’ primary colors and the results of playing the game – will be awarded to the winning team and kept until the following year’s battle. In addition, there will also be $500 “Character Scholarships” given to a senior player from each team who best exemplifies positive character attributes, both on and of the field.  The recipients will be determined by the athletic director and coaches from each respective team.

There are a number of intertwined background stories that have led up to the establishment of this new tradition. Chris Fuller, a lifelong resident and business owner in Auburn, played for Holy Name for the Class of 93′ when current Athletic Director Jim Manzello became Holy Name’s interim head football coach. Also a member of the HN ’93 team was current Auburn Coach  Ben June.  It was June who helped convince Fuller to come play for Manzello.

The scholarships for this game are indirectly named as a tribute to Manzello. “Manzi was just as determined to make us winners as he was [to make us] men. Not just men, but men who recognized the importance of character, and lived to that creed,”  said Fuller

At that time, Holy Name played Wachusett on Thanksgiving Day, and Auburn played Oxford. As these traditional rivalries became unsustainable, Auburn and Holy Name wound up Thanksgiving opponents.

Current Auburn High School principal, Casey Handfield (AHS ’93), and his brother Corey (AHS ’95) are also Auburn football alumni. Both went on to coach at Wachusett Regional H.S. before returning to Auburn to coach and to operate Auburn’s Pop Warner league.  At that time, Fuller joined former AHS quarterback Tony Zannoti (AHS ’92) and the Handfield brothers in coaching Pop Warner.

It was in this Pop Warner system that Auburn High School’s current defensive coordinator, Sean Sullivan (AHS ’93) began displaying his dominating defensive schemes.  Another one of the current Auburn High football coaches, Pat Dufor, was a teammate of Fuller’s at Assumption College. When Fuller transferred to Assumption his sophomore year, he played tight end, a position that was a bit less crowded on the roster when a player decided not to return to Assumption’s 94-95 team.  That player’s name: Casey Handfield.

Furthermore, Oxford’s 1992 quarterback, Tony Reno, is now the head coach at Yale University in New Haven. Reno played his college days at Worcester State, where the battle for the ‘Black and Blue Cup’ will take place.  When Reno’s oldest son was first ready to play, he wanted to be sure that men of good character would be guiding his son on the gridiron. He sent his son to Handfield’s Pop Warner system.

In actuality, this “new” tradition has a risen from 25 year culmination of a group of men and boys randomly intertwined through football.