Clifton, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – High school football games on Thanksgiving are a century-old tradition for many in the Tri-State Area.
In recent years, some schools have done away with it.READ MORE: De Blasio Says It's Time To Move Homeless People Out Of Hotels, Back Into Shelters
The Clifton Mustangs versus the Passaic Indians is a Thanksgiving tradition between the two teams since 1992, and a rivalry that dates back even longer.
“There’s definitely a special meaning, playing on Thanksgiving, the rich tradition,” said Ralph Cinque, Clifton High School’s head football coach.
Cinque actually played football for Clifton back in the early ’90s, and many of the players from both teams grew up watching the Thanksgiving Day game.
“That’s where my love of football game,” said Clifton’s Robert Urban, who plays left guard.
“It’s was cold and it was fun,” said Clifton cornerback Jansel Morel.
“When I was younger, I came here with my cousin, my dad and my mom,” said Passaic left tackle Jayden Graham.
This isn’t just about the football players. The game means a lot to the marching bands, alumni and fans. There are the cheerleaders too, and at halftime the marching bands at both schools join forces for a performance, reported CBS2’s Alice Gainer. Alumni are invited to march.
So why get rid of the Thanksgiving Day game? It was up to the schools, and they say times have changed.READ MORE: New York City Naming 16 Parks After Prominent Black Americans
“When Thanksgiving games started years ago, the football season started in September,” said Tom Mullahey, Clifton’s athletic director.
Now practice begins in the summer, leading to a longer season.
“We already started winter sports, so there’s overlap, and there’s no break, and after a while it takes a toll on the kids,” said Kimberly Kenny, Passaic athletic director.
So though Thursday will be the end of an era, it’s not the end of the rivalry. The teams will continue to play each other every two years, just earlier in the season.
As for Thursday? It’s on.
“Just the bragging rights, you know?” said Passaic Head Coach William Widener.
“At the end of the day, after the game finishes, we’re all family. It’s just a lot of heated emotions and stuff,” said Passaic linebacker Evan Rotte.
Like a lot of families, what’s a Thanksgiving like without some heated emotions?
The game is Thursday at 10 a.m.MORE NEWS: FBI: Suspect Killed During Kidnapping Investigation At Leonia Apartment Complex
Passaic first began playing a Thanksgiving game more than 100 years ago.