Our program featured the annual Thanksgiving Day Football preview in anticipation of the 116th meeting between the Rovers of Easton and the Stateliners from Phillipsburg. Rotary has hosted this lunch for over 40 years. Traditions abound in this rivalry and the closeness of the two communities can lead to mixed emotions. Phillipsburg Rotary President Marian Trapani grew up in Phillipsburg and spent her whole career in the P'burg school system, yet she admittedly rooted for the Rovers for 3 years. Her reason? She lived in Easton and her son played football for the Rovers.
New Easton Athletic Director Matt Baltz is a veteran of the game having participated as a player and subsequently as a coach for 18 years. Easton Cheerleader Coach Kim Stout is also a veteran and knows full well that there is nothing like this time of year. When it comes to this rivalry she believes that people on the inside looking out can't properly explain it, and people on the outside looking in can't quite understand it. Her advice to the seniors is to take time to appreciate it and take it all in because after the final whistle, all that is left are the precious memories.
New Easton Head Coach Matt Seneca is new to the rivalry and is experiencing what he calls a baptism by fire. He claims he has never seen such an atmosphere including when he played big games for Penn State. New Phillipsburg Athletic Director Kyle Fleming noted the differences between the two schools and their similarities. The differences are largely cosmetic including school colors, conferences. and enrollment. The similarities includer players who are 2nd & 3rd generation participants; Senior Captains who are also top 10 academics; players who will enter the military upon graduation.
Phillipsburg Cheering Coach Michelle Cavarella is a 2011 P'burg alum and former cheerleader. She told how the squads from the two schools practice together and rehearse to perform a united cheer before the start of the game. Both squads have a food drive and they trade with each other. Needy families in Easton get food from Phillipsburg and vice versa.
Phillipsburg Head Coach Frank Duffy is an 8 year veteran of this rivalry and is beginning to feel like the elder statesman. Athletic Directors, Coaches, players all come and go but the tradition remains. The game has been played 115 times and it never gets old. The COVID -related absence of the game in 2020 served to illuminate how much would be missed without this tradition. The seniors were cheated out of what is for many, the final game of their career. Phillipsburg has been pressured at time to drop Easton from their schedule and only play teams from New Jersey. If the choice was to play Easton or play in a state championship game, The Stateliners will always choose to play Easton.