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THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS: Remembering the late Malden football Head Coach Paul Finn; coached more Turkey Day games than anyone and would have loved to have been at Fenway

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‘Exilhomme Domination’: Brother duo, Coach Witche and game MVP Kevin, shared spotlight; Fenway crowd for Malden-Medford game #135 believed to be largest ever in series: over 3,000

  The holidays – Thanksgiving time, particularly – are special times for a lot of reasons. One of them is that they are a time for reminiscing.

  Last Thanksgiving, we mentioned in this very same “leftovers” column the fact there were at least four former Malden High Head Football Coaches in attendance at the 2021 holiday rivalry game – maybe four. We think a fifth, Rich Cullen (1999-2003), might have been there, too, but we are not exactly sure. They included Steve Freker (2018-2021), Joe Pappagallo (2007-2015), John Lopresti (2004-2006) and of course, the longest-serving football head coach in school history, Paul Finn (1972-1998).

  Coach Finn was a head coach in more Thanksgiving Day contests against archrival Medford than anyone. He was appointed as head coach at a young age, barely out of college at age 25, for the 1972 season, and he “retired” at a young age as well – at 51 – an age when many head coaches of his era were just beginning their tenures at the helm.

  Coach Finn was not in attendance at the 135th meeting between the two teams at Fenway Park last Tuesday, but he absolutely would have loved it. An old-school student-athlete in his years at Malden High (Class of 1965), he was a standout for three sports: football, basketball and baseball. When the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox were playing in 1967, he was a sophomore at Amherst College, soaking it all in. Many times, following his retirement from the Malden Public Schools as an administrator, he would stop and catch an inning or two of our Malden High baseball team, his alma mater team, on his daily walk through Pine Banks Park from his nearby home, right next to the field.

  We sadly lost Coach Finn this past winter when tragedy struck and he passed away suddenly on February 7, way too young at age 74. The entire city of Malden and the hundreds of players he coached who had moved away physically, but never in spirit, from Tornado-Land, mourned him deeply. We believe some members of Coach Finn’s family were in the stands rooting on the Tornados in the iconic Fenway ballpark on Tuesday, and they remembered him with a great page in the Golden Tornado Club–sponsored program/ad book.

  There is no doubt whatsoever that the beloved Coach Finn, who literally touched thousands of lives in his 27 years as Head Football Coach and nearly 40 years as an educator and administrator in the Malden Public Schools, was at Fenway in spirit, looking down at the game and reveling in the 34-15 Malden victory!

  Rest in peace, Coach. You will not be forgotten.


Exilhomme Family puts its stamp on another memorable Thanksgiving Football victory

  It is always a rarity when not one, but two members of the same family are the targets of the postgame media, following a big victory. Usually, if it does take place, it is perhaps a father-and-son, Coach and player scenario.

  On Tuesday, November 22, it was even more unusual: two brothers from the same family and both of whom had played key roles in the 34-15 Malden High School (4-6) win over Medford (2-9) in the 135th Meeting of the two teams, the longest continuous high school rivalry in America. Malden Head Coach Witche Exilhomme – the second-youngest ever appointed to that position last year at age 27 (second to the late Coach Paul Finn, see above) – and sophomore running back/linebacker Kervenson “Kevin” Exilhomme, 15, were the stars of the show. While Coach Exilhomme, a 2012 Malden High graduate (and star of the 2011 Turkey Day game), was steering his team to his second consecutive Thanksgiving Day win – Malden’s seventh Thanksgiving win in a row over Medford – his brother was lighting it up on the field.

  Kevin Exilhomme scored three touchdowns, including opening the game with a 95-yard kickoff return for a TD just seconds into the game. He ended up being the “go-to” man the rest of the night, carrying the ball a season- and career-high 29 times for 81 years. The younger Exilhomme also caught three passes for 21 yards and made several tackles on defense.

  Coach Exilhomme became just the second “former Malden player who became head coach” to win his first two Thanksgiving games, following his immediate predecessor, Coach Steve Freker, as Malden won in 2018 (24-22) and 2019 (29-0). Witche, the second-year Malden coach, led the Blue and Gold to a 12-10 win in Malden last year.

  If the Exilhomme name sounds familiar, it should. The two middle brothers, both members of the Class of 2016 – running back Danley Exilhomme and defensive back D.J. Exilhomme – both starred for Malden in their three upperclassmen football seasons, from 2013-2015. In 2015, the two combined to score nearly all the Malden points in a wild, “Madden Football-like,” 59-35 win over Medford, which set records in total Malden points scored (they needed every one of them – 59!) and total points scored by both teams: 94. Both Danley and D.J. went on to have stellar careers at Division 1 Central Connecticut State University (CCSU); D.J. also played one season at the University of South Alabama, and each have been seen on the Malden sidelines at a game or two this year.


Coach Exilhomme gets huge honor, presented “Key to the City” by Mayor Christenson

  Earning the right to hold on to the Thanksgiving Championship Trophy for another year was not the only honor Malden Head Coach Witche Exilhomme received after the Game #135, 34-15 victory. Following the game, just down the street from the Ted Williams statue outside of Fenway Park, Malden Mayor Gary Christenson hosted a brief ceremony, surrounded by Malden High School players, coaches and supporters. After some brief words congratulating Coach Exilhomme for the big win at historic Fenway Park, Mayor Christenson announced he was presenting the coach with the “Key to the City.” “I’ve only presented the ‘Key to the City’ a few times before, but this is certainly the appropriate time to honor Coach Witche Exilhomme and the Malden High Football Team on such a historic night and fantastic victory,” Mayor Christenson, one of Malden High’s biggest sports fans, said to those gathered around.


Crowd for Malden-Medford game #135 said to have been largest ever for Fenway Thanksgiving Series game

  Was that a record? Until someone tells us differently, the crowd of over 3,000 at Fenway for Malden-Medford game #135 was the largest ever for a Thanksgiving series game at the home of the Boston Red Sox. A week before the game, ticket pundits at Fenway Park were already saying the pregame sales had surpassed any other previous game. Then, to see the many Malden-Medford fans packing the right field/first base side stands, it made the case for the biggest attendance.

  In case you were wondering, yes, the Malden fans were the loudest, especially when they had the most to cheer about.


Getting “streak-y” around here for Malden High; seven straight Thanksgiving wins ties record

  The 34-15 Fenway win made it seven straight Thanksgiving wins over Medford for Malden, from 2015-2023 (no Thanksgiving game in 2021), which ties a previous record of another seven straight wins from 2007-2013. Medford won, 38-12, in snow-covered Macdonald Stadium in Malden in 2014, between the two streaks. Malden has simply dominated since 2002, winning a whopping 18 of 20 games from 2002 to 2022. Medford’s 17-14 win in 2006, on an overtime field goal, and the 2014 victory for the Mustangs are the only highlights for the Blue and White.

  With this year’s win, Malden moved ahead in the all-time series with a 69-56 lead. There have been 10 ties. In 2004, the ancient series was deadlocked for the first time since way back, at 54-54-10. It has been almost “All Malden” since then.


Malden Police provided police escort; former standout Tornados three-sport player Sgt. Kelley was leading the way

  The Malden Police Department graciously supplied a police escort to and from Fenway for the game, which was invaluable in getting there amidst the rush hour traffic. The ride home was also tremendous, especially since Malden came away with such a memorable victory.

  The vehicle was manned by Sgt. J.P. Kelley, a 1989 Malden High graduate who played in two Greater Boston League (GBL) title-clinching Thanksgiving Day wins: in 1987 and 1988. Kelley was a teammate of another MHS standout from that era, Ptl. Michael Langston. Also in the police contingent was Sgt. Rob O’Brien, though O’Brien attended high school on the other side of town at Malden Catholic (Class of 2001); he is in his second year as a Malden Public Schools Resource Officer and has been an “honorary Tornado” for some time now.

  The Malden Police Honor Guard bore the Flag and the colors for the National Anthem, which opened the evening at Fenway Park.


Bright future for the young Malden High Tornados football squad

  So, the Malden city motto, which was adopted during the administration of sitting Mayor Gary Christenson, is this: “Strong Past, Proud Future.”

  How about the Malden High football program – any suggestions? We’d say this one fits: “Bright Future, For Sure!” When was the last time a Malden High varsity football team started six sophomores and seven juniors in its Thanksgiving Game, including its entire offensive line?

  The juniors on Tuesday night were two-way linemen Karl Lange (center, nose guard) Jerrell Calixte (tackle), Joey Fils (tackle), defensive back Felix Da Costa, slotbacks Davian Mcguffie and Alex Avalos and wideout and co-captain Gabriel Vargas Cardoso. The sophomores: Kevin Exilhomme (RB-LB), James Hyppolite (LB), Earl Fevrier (OG-DL), Matt Brito (LB), Aidan Brett (QB) and Chris Rodriguez (OG-DL). That adds up to 19 of 21 starting positions returning to the field for the 2023 season for second-year Head Coach Witche Exilhomme,

  Think he’s excited about that, especially the way the team finished, with a resounding win on Thanksgiving at Fenway Park? “We as a coaching staff are really looking forward to what comes next,” Coach Exilhomme said. “We relied on a lot of previously inexperienced players to start the season, then when we had injuries to key players that knocked some of them out for the year, even more younger players were called on to provide big contributions.”

  “Yes, the future is very bright for this team,” the Malden coach agreed. “We have more than 85 percent of our team returning for next season and we intend on being prepared to challenge for everything.”

  EXTRA POINTS: The Malden stands were absolutely loaded with both former Golden Tornados football players as well as longtime supporters… There were also a lot of Malden Public Schools educators and administrators at the game, including second-year Superintendent Dr. Ligia Noriega Murphy, who was on the sidelines for most of the game… A large contingent of Malden High School teachers and administrators were up in a couple of the skyboxes, many of them guests of longtime MHS teacher Pat Laidley, who was the lucky winner of use of the skybox in a free raffle hosted by Malden High Principal Chris Mastrangelo. “It could not have gone to a better choice. Pat [Laidley] is one of the most dedicated educators we have at Malden High Schools. She is so committed to supporting our students and her colleagues.”… Malden High junior safety Felix Da Costa firmly established himself as one of the top “big play” guys not only in Thanksgiving history, but for the season. He led the team in defensive scores this year with five, and he had his third fumble return for a TD at Fenway. Da Costa also recorded his fifth pass interception of the season; two of them went for “Pick Six” TDs this year. One of the key returnees for 2023, no doubt… Malden junior co-captain, 6-5 wideout Gabriel Vargas Cardoso had two of the biggest offensive plays of the night: a big 21-yard pickup on a crucial drive and 4th-down-and-5 situation with Medford knocking on the door, down just 22-14, early in the fourth quarter, and then a 25-yard catch where it went to the Medford 2-yard line. Both of those Vargas Cardoso catches led to Malden second-half scores at the end of the drives… Two bigtime performances up front for Malden came from bookend junior linemen Jerrell Calixte (6-3, 270) and Joey Fils (6-1, 290). Both played both sides of the ball and both played tremendous football, as each has done all season. Both of them are bonafide Greater Boston League (GBL) All-Star considerations… Others up for GBL All-Star talk? Have to say sophomores Kevin Exilhomme, linebacker and co-captain James Hyppolite, junior safety Felix Da Costa and junior slotback Davian McGuffie… Despite being out-sized by a large margin, with Malden’s young offensive line averaging 6-1, 260 pounds, the opposing Medford Mustang line fought hard and certainly never lied down, making it a tight game for much of the second half… Speaking of the perhaps tighter than expected second half, when exactly could Coach Witche Exilhomme relax? “When the game was over, that’s it,” he said with a smile afterward… Seen in some of the Boston paper photos that depicted Kevin Exilhomme steaming down the sidelines on his way to a game-winning kickoff return touchdown was Malden Recreation coordinator and Macdonald Stadium superintendent Joe Levine. Levine was beaming with a huge smile, and it was fitting, as the Levine Family has been strongly connected with the Exilhomme Family for a number of years, dating back to when Coach Witche (Class of 2012) was a player for Malden High… Unsung heroes for the game were seniors Vidal Garner (6-0, 350), a D-lineman, and senior captains Kyle Paulding (FB-DL) and Andrew Louis (TE-DE). All three made big plays when they were needed on both sides of the ball. Paulding had three catches and two big runs on offense, including a pair of 2-point conversions, Louis also contributed strong on both sides of the ball and “Big V” Garner was a force to be reckoned with in the trenches.

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