CLIFTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A North Jersey Thanksgiving tradition dating back nearly 30 years has come to an end.
That’s just one of the reasons hundreds of alumni, parents and students gathered to watch the high school teams play their last Turkey Bowl game on Thursday.
“It’s significant because it’s a tradition. It’s a rivalry,” Mustangs player Chris Boneparte said.
“It’s more of a family game than a football game,” Mustangs player Robert Urban said.
“I’m sure it has something to do with the Passaic-Clifton rivalry, and also because football is a big tradition around Thanksgiving, watching with your families,” said Quiana Drummond, wife of the Passaic Indians assistant coach.
The game has become beloved to families across North Jersey. It also means a lot to the alumni, the marching bands, the cheerleaders and the coaches.
“It was very important to me when I was in school so I didn’t want to miss it,” Clifton High School alumna Amy Stover said.
“It’s tough because, I mean, it’s been so many years. Any chance I got, I would come back and then get to see all my friends. With it kind of ending, it’s bittersweet. Especially last night when we had rehearsal, everybody was talking about it, and it was like, wow, this might be the last time we get all these people back at the same time,” former Clifton band member Matt Perrius said.
“It’s sad because this is what football is all about, the Thanksgiving game and everyone coming out and supporting,” Clifton cheerlander Hailey Hyland said.
“It’s homecoming. People are off, sometimes people can’t come to the games, but everyone is home so families can come together and come to the games,” Passaic Indians assistant coach Jameel Drummond said.
Although it’s beloved, school officials say the game is no longer practical. They say the football season starts earlier in the year than it used to, so the Turkey Bowl game drags out the season for too long. Still, they say the rivalry between the teams will never go away.
“Clifton is a horseshoe and Passaic runs around it, so for 100 years, we’ve been playing against each other because we are next door to each other,” Clifton head football coach Ralph Cinque said.
While disappointed, many of the players and fans say they are grateful for the decades of memories.
“It’s important to me and my team because it’s been going on for 100 years, so we’re trying to make it the best,” Indians player Antrell Monroe said.
“Very sad, it’s terrible. Wish it would continue, but we’re all here, so this is how we’ll remember it,” said Laura Louer, mother of a Clifton High School student.
While Thursday’s game is the end of an era, the teams will continue to play each other in the future — just earlier in the season.
The Mustangs ended up beating the Indians 43 to 6.