It feels like Thanksgiving has come full circle for me. While Turkey Day usually comes with a side of stuffing and mac and cheese, high school football is an added third dish on the fourth Thursday in November.

Since I grew up here, I’ve had a rare opportunity to spend the biggest high school football day in the Nutmeg State from several different vantage points. First, as a little kid playing Pop Warner football at Longbrook Field in Stratford — getting a chance to watch the battle for Stratford between Bunnell and Stratford high schools with teammates, my coaches, and my family.

Then as a student-athlete, I played on two Thanksgivings while attending Notre Dame of Fairfield. During a forgettable junior year campaign losing to Immaculate High School — the first ND-Fairfield team to lose on Thanksgiving in over seven seasons. But also feeling the joy of victory during a senior year win that would be the final time many of us — myself including — on that field would don football pads.

Now after years away for Thanksgiving, getting the opportunity to come back as a reporter and spend the holidays watching high school ball — it can only be summed up as a great blessing. Although the urge to strap on the old pads and run out on the field will be strong and the goosebumps during the opening kickoff will be rampant — it is the press box will be has become my new huddle.

ajohnson@hearstmedia; @aronJohnson_