In the Easton Area School District, Thanksgiving is all about football.
The Turkey Day Game, as it’s known in these parts, is the annual match-up between the Red Rovers and the Phillipsburg State-Liners. This isn't your average high school football contest. The magnitude of this game is staggering to anyone not from around here.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the game:
- Easton and Phillipsburg meet for the 105th time Thursday morning at Lafayette College's Fisher Stadium with a raucous, sellout crowd of approximately 15,000 fans expected. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. The game is televised live on cable and shown several times on tape delay over the holiday weekend.
- The Easton Area High School athletic office sells its allocation of tickets at least a month ahead of time.
- Generations of Easton and Phillipsburg residents have participated in the storied rivalry. It's routine to see photos taken of three and four generations of family members who have played in the century-old game snapped on the Lafayette College football field prior to and after the game.
- Phillipsburg fans gather at the high school, walk over the Free Bridge en masse and trek up College Hill to Fisher Stadium in solidarity.
- A joint banquet is held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving with senior football players and cheerleaders on both sides awarded commemorative rings. That's televised, too.
- Easton holds a bonfire for students behind the high school on the night before the game. Phillipsburg scrapped their bonfire a few years ago for legal reasons, but students and residents are treated to a free fireworks display at the high school stadium.
- Both school's football programs are historic and successful. The Stateliners own the most football victories in New Jersey high school history and Easton isn't far behind that total.
- The rivalry is more intense than usual in recent years, as both teams have been involved in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state football playoffs. This year, Easton plays for the District championship on Saturday night, two days after this game.
- The Red Rovers have taken four of the last five Thanksgiving meetings. For those keeping score, Easton leads the series with 58 victories. Phillipsburg has 41 wins. There were five ties. One of those ties, a 7-7 draw in 1993, was finally settled in April 2009 when Gatorade sponsored a "Replay Game," featuring the same players and head coaches going at again more than 15 years later. Phillipsburg won that contest, 27-12, in front of another sellout crowd.
- Dress warm, and bring sunglasses. Word is it'll be sunny and 50 degrees Thursday morning.