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'Battle for the Rail' is on hold for Bacon and RHAM

It has been dubbed "The Battle for the Rail" — the annual Thanksgiving Day high school football matchup between Bacon Academy and RHAM.

A quick history lesson:

Back in the 1800s the Air Line Railroad carried passengers and freight from Boston to New York. It included a "spur" line that ran for 3.6 miles from downtown Colchester — where Bacon resides — to Turnerville Station (now Amston), an area of Hebron — the 'H' in RHAM (Region of Hebron, Andover, and Marlborough).

That spur is now part of the Air Line State Park Trail, a 54.6-mile walking, biking, horse riding trail that runs from East Hampton and passes through both towns all the way to the Massachusetts border in Thompson.

When Mark Farnsworth became Bacon's head coach in May, he wasted little time in learning all about the Bacon-RHAM rivalry, which began in 2006 and is all even (7-7) after the Bobcats' 32-0 victory in 2019.

"I'm very familiar with it," said Farnsworth, who certainly knows something about Turkey Day rivalries. He was an all-state tackle at Fitch in 1979 when the Falcons played New London on Thanksgiving, then spent time coaching at his alma mater and Ledyard, which began a Thanksgiving series in 2000 and annually plays for the Colonel Ledyard Sword.

"It's something the players and coaches take to heart. I've been fortunate enough to have been through this with Fitch and Ledyard. Today's traditions are important, and this year's game is certainly going to be missed."

Farnsworth said he made a point of discussing the Bacon-RHAM game right after he accepted the job offer as a way of engaging his new players.

"That was one of our focal points entering the season," he said. "We talked about continuing traditions, validating the traditions that (Bacon) has ... and The Rail is certainly part of it. I feel badly the kids aren't going to be able to experience that this year because it's something that's really important to them."

Dylan Graham, a two-way lineman and one of Farnsworth's senior captains, admitted it has been difficult for all the players.

"It really sucks that we aren't able to play this year because all year, personally, I look forward to playing this game," Graham said. "I have it on my mind all year and I know our team does, too. The feeling of being on the field Thanksgiving Day playing RHAM is something amazing that feels unreal. It feels like a dream as soon as you step on the field.

"I was really looking forward to being out there for my senior year leading my team, but we just have to keep our heads up and hope for a spring season."

Farnsworth, who is one the mend following knee replacement surgery, does plan to follow through on one of Bacon's traditional rituals — a senior bonfire — even though there will not be a Thanksgiving Day game this season.

"We are going to continue to honor that as soon as we can find the time," Farnsworth said. "I'm told (the seniors) like to burn their cleats. The gist of it is taking something meaningful, something to remember the season as a lifetime memory and commemorate their time with the program.

"That's why we're going to have that bonfire. (Colchester) is a great community. I really feel good about being here and being part of that."

c.banning@theday.com

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