Remember that 80s movie “The Best of Times” with Robin Williams as the nerd who dropped the big touchdown pass from Kurt Russell that would have given Taft High the win over arch-rivals Bakersfield, and how he convinces both teams to replay the game years later? Probably not, because it wasn’t a huge hit, although I remember since I was actually living in Taft that summer (not a highlight of my life), and it was just about the biggest deal ever in town (that and the Circle K opening in town).
It looks like we have a sequel brewing, only this time in real life: RIVALS.COM says that members of the 1993 teams from bitter foes Easton (PA) and Phillipsburg (NJ) are going to be replaying their 7-7 tie on April 26. This is all part of a program called Gatorade REPLAY which spotlights some of the best rivalries in high school football, which of course meas there are special perks for the players, such as special training sessions to get in shape. And having Peyton and Eli Manning as the honorary coaches.
(If that’s the case, shouldn’t the two teams be settling this the manly way: in the Double Stuff Licking League?)
In the 1993 game, Easton entered with an 11-1 record while Phillipsburg was a measly 4-5. But Phillipsburg was able to stiffle Easton’s running game, and the Stateliners sealed the…can you call a tie an “upset?”…with a blocked field goal with a few minutes remaining. All of this left Easton with a bitter taste in their mouths, so they were happy to jump at a second chance at redemption.
Needless to say, many of the players aren’t quite in the same football shape as they were in high school. I get this, and this is why I’m glad my high school didn’t have a nationally-known rivalry: if I had to play an actual game of football today, with people trying to hit me, I would die of a heart attack within the first five minutes. Unless I’m allowed to smoke on the sidelines.
And they are making special concessions to the players’ advanced ages with the rules: kickoffs and punts will result in fair catches, and on defense players are not allowed to blitz and will play man-to-man in the secondary. So think of it like the Pro Bowl, with the same speed of play, but in this case it’s because the players are out of shape instead of disinterested and trying to avoid injury.
If you are curious about the interest from the team’s fans for the game, understand this: the WARREN REPORTER says that the PHS athletic director has been receiving “50 calls a day“ about tickets to the game. Which either tells you how much this rivalry means, or how little there is to do in Phillipsburg.