High school football is a big deal in Pennsylvania. Thanksgiving Day football is an even bigger deal in Easton, Pa. The annual Easton vs. Phillipsburg, NJ game is the oldest interstate matchup in the nation; the first such game was held in 1906 and it’s been going strong ever since.
It’s a tremendous game that’s played at Lafayette College on College Hill in Easton; neither Phillipsburg or Easton’s home stadiums are big enough for the massive crowds that the Turkey Day games draw.
We usually avoid it — my parents still live in New Jersey, and we usually use game time as our window to get off the hill and into the Garden State (trying to leave when everyone else is leaving the football game is insanity).
This year though, we embraced it. We’ve got two kids in the Easton Area School District (one in elementary school, one in middle school) and we’ve come to know a lot of our neighbors through coaching spring softball.
The kids weren’t thrilled about this — they’d rather have stayed home and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — but we bundled them up in long underwear and winter cloths and headed off to the game anyway.
It was a classic day for November football: blue skies with a few high altitude clouds, temperatures in the mid 30s, and a steady breeze that occasionally surged to a wind. We also had great seats on the 30 yard line, three rows back from the front, on the home side. The stadium was packed with Easton and Phillipsburg fans, and was every bit as loud as we’d heard from our front porch for all these years.
The kids had mixed fillings about it. NeutronLad (7 years old) was excited before the game, but the cold quickly sapped his enthusiasm. It rallied with the arrival of hot chocolate, but he wasn’t impressed by the game. StarGirl (10 years old), who complained bitterly that we were messing with tradition by going to the game, ended up liking it more. She particularly enjoyed the marching band performances.
The game itself was good. Easton led the entire game and went into the half with a 10-0 lead. Phillipsburg rallied with a touchdown after the half, but Easton won 16-7. We left before that happened, departing early in the 3rd quarter so we could avoid the mass exodus from College Hill and get to Thanksgiving dinner on time.
I’m glad we did it. Sure it was cold, but it was nice to be at the game rather than hearing its dull, distant roar. Next time around it’d be fun to go with friends, and perhaps tailgate before hand, but I think we can wait a year or three before doing that.