“Fourteen members of the Norwich Free Academy (NFA) 1898 football team draw the camera’s eye to the center of the photograph where one player, dressed in a striped rugby-like shirt holds a football labeled NFA ’98. His look is direct, open, perhaps defiant, and certainly smug. His teammates, most dressed in quilted knicker-like pants, heavyweight knitted knee socks, leather shoes, and solid colored turtle neck sweaters, surround him in a kind of relaxed, confident embrace. On the floor in front, a relatively tall lad, reclining on his left side, hair parted jauntily in the middle, stares into the camera. His left hand touches the leather “head harness” next to him on the floor. The whole picture conveys pride, skill, confidence, strength and youthful bravado. It is one of the oldest football photographs in the Norwich Free Academy archives” (excerpt taken from an article written by Geoff Serra for the Fall 2009 issue of Connecticut Explored).
On May 12, 1875, the oldest football rivalry in the United States began as the NFA Wildcats took on the New London Bulkeley Tigers. In 1951, The Tigers became the New London Whalers and the rivalry raged on. In the past 136 years , the two teams have met a total of 149 times. There have been wins, losses and ties – some heartbreaking and others exhilarating. This Thanksgiving, the two teams will square off for the 150th game. Wildcat pride will run deep this year as NFA, after finishing last year’s regular season at 10-0, will face their rivals for the 150th time. For more information on the 150th game, please refer to our athletics event calendar.