BY GAYLE SIMONE , valley dispatch staff

The Dracut Middies and the Methuen Rangers will square off For the 43rd time in their annual Thanksgiving Day football game on Nov. 24.

While the series is close — Dracut holds the slight edge (21-18-3) — the two teams know wins and losses do not always show what this game is all about.

Methuen vs. Dracut

WHEN: Nov. 24, 10 a.m.

WHERE: Beaudry Field,

Dracut High School

Middies second-year coach Pat Murphy said his young team is not only looking forward to the game, but also winning it.

“We have a chance to go 8-3 on the season; finish the season with three straight wins,” Murphy said. “It’s a good way to finish, and the best way to start next season off on the right foot.”

Alec Garabedian, one of the Middies three co-captains, said the Turkey Day game is the most important game of the season.

“Tons of people expect (us) to win,” Garabedian said. “And we want the trophy back.”

Shane O’Donnell echoed his co-captain’s thoughts.

“Some of us have been playing together for nine years, since Pop Warner,” O’Donnell said. “We want to go out with a win.”

Jon McSwiggin, the only senior of the three Dracut co-captains, is sad to see his football career come to an end, but is excited for his last game.

“We have a huge fan base here,” McSwiggin said. “There’s ton of school spirit. Everyone comes to our games.”

While the Middies are looking to finish their season with a three-game winning streak, the Rangers could be in search of their first win. They have a makeup game with Central Catholic on Nov. 18.

The Rangers third-year coach Glen Gearin always looks forward to the Thanksgiving game.

“We all know the importance, not just to us, but to the community as well,” Gearin said, whose team (0-8) was still looking for its first win of the season at the time of this article.

The four senior Ranger captains — George Abourizk, Joe Marcello, Cory Murray and Ross O’Connor — are looking forward to playing their last game.

“It’s my last game for the organization,” Abourizk said. “I don’t like to predict games, but it will be a good one.”

Marcello had a litle more emotion because he played Pop Warner before attending Methuen.

“It means a lot to me,” Marcello said. “This is my 10th year playing Dracut. Hopefully we’ll get the win. I mean you wait for this last game your senior year. I want to get a win.”

Murray feels effort is the key to a victory and he echoed his coach’s thoughts.

“For the seniors it’s their last game ever,” Murray said. “We need to go in there and give it all we can and hopefully we will come out with the win.”

O’Connor talked about the community being involved in the game.

“We know how important this game is to the city,” O’Connor said. “We all went to the games when we were kids.”

Although the Rangers would not predict an outcome of the game, Gearin commented on how much alike Methuen and Dracut are.

“We are almost mirror images of each other,” Gearin said. “We’ve known each other’s coaching staffs for years; the demographics of the towns are almost identical; we get the same types of athletes and to be bordering towns makes for a perfect match for the Thanksgiving Day rivalry.”

Dracut resident Sam Weisberg, who has been covering high school football for 52 years, thinks the Middies will once again defeat the Rangers.

“Dracut should win easily,” Weisberg said. “They’re one of the best Dracut teams they’ve had in years.”

Dan Dodson, the official trophy presenter, does not think the victory will come that easily. Even though Dracut won the last two, he noted that Methuen held large leads heading into the final quarter of play both years only to have Dracut come out victorious.

“If the past two years are any type of indication of how the game will go,” Dodson said, “then I would have to think the Dracut coach is telling his players ‘anything can happen.’ The past two years have been so dramatic.”

The Middies’ captains are confident they are going to win, but do not feel it’s going to be a blow out of any kind.

“It’s going to be a good game to watch,” Garabedian said. “It always is.”

Garabedian could be referring to the past two Dracut victories: 17-14 and 28- 22.