Editor's note: A version of this article was one of the first things we published when the Easton Patch launched in 2010. We've updated it for 2012, but the particulars of the Thanksgiving game remain the same.
In Easton, traditions on Thanksgiving are a little different than just going to grandmother's house for dinner.
That feast eventually takes place, but a more pressing holiday tradition unfolds during the late morning while the bird is comfortably stuffed and nestled in the oven.
It's not the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Dallas Cowboys playing football on national television.
It's a football game much closer to home: the annual Thanksgiving Day match-up between Easton Area High School Red Rovers and the Phillipsburg State-Liners, from just across the River in New Jersey.
The Turkey Day Game, as it's known in these parts, isn't your average high school football contest. The magnitude of this annual event is staggering to anyone not originally from the immediate area.
Here are 11 things you need to know about the game:
- Easton and Phillipsburg meet for the 106th time Thursday morning at Lafayette College's Fisher Stadium with a raucous, sellout crowd. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. The game is televised live on cable -- and shown on-line. You can watch it on Service Electric channel 51, or RCN channel 60, listen on ESPN radio 1230/1320 AM, or access it online -- for $4.95 -- through eastonsd.org.
- It's a good thing the game's on TV, because obtaining a ticket to Turkey Day's festivities in advance is difficult and basically impossible on game day, unless someone you know holds an extra. The Easton Area High School athletic office sells its allocation of remaining game 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. Family rivalries abound throughout Easton and Phillipsburg with married graduates from competing schools keeping allegiance to their respective alma mater.
- Tailgating around the Lafayette College campus starts early and ends well after the final score is posted. Local taverns on College Hill open early and do brisk business. Phillipsburg fans gather at the high school, walk over the Free Bridge en masse and trek up College Hill to Fisher Stadium in solidarity.
- Hoopla surrounds the days and hours leading up to the game. 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.
- Senior cheerleaders from each school compete in a Powder Puff game, usually on Monday or Tuesday evening, followed by a flag football match between members of the town's police departments. The police game is quite competitive and tends to move from touch to straight-out tackling (without equipment) in the second half.
- Easton holds a bonfire for students behind the high school on the night before the game. Phillipsburg scrapped its 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. Signs outside each school boast their gridiron acumen and keep running victory totals.
- 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. Easton, on several occasions throughout the last decade, played on Thanksgiving and came back Saturday for a state playoff game – and won both. Phillipsburg won several New Jersey state sectional championships in the late 2000s, but players and coaches still rue losing to the Red Rovers on Thanksgiving. Both teams are again involved in their respective state playoffs this season with Easton and Phillipsburg losing just one game each.
- For those keeping score, Easton leads the series with 59 victories. Phillipsburg has 41 wins. There have been 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.
- Weather today is expected to be sunny, in the mid-50s. Enjoy the game!