They’ll go at it again on Thanksgiving Day.
The Asbury Park High School football team will host Neptune at 10 a.m. in the 88th renewal of one of the state’s oldest rivalries.
The rivalry between the neighboring towns was born in 1908, according to Asbury Park School District spokeswoman Chanta L. Jackson. She said records indicate the Scarlet Fliers lead the series 46-37-4. Jackson said games were not played during war time.
Asbury Park coach Tim Fosque and Neptune coach Rodney Taylor are far from strangers to the rivalry.
Fosque played guard and defensive end for the Blue Bishops in 1989 when they lost to Neptune. Now in his first season at the helm, Fosque was an Asbury Park assistant coach for 16 seasons.
Taylor played strong safety for Neptune from 1998-2000. He was a Neptune assistant coach for eight years. He’s in his second year as Neptune’s head coach.
“Over the past 20 years, Neptune has pretty dominated the series even during our championship years,” Fosque said. “This game is still such a great rivalry and is something that is anticipated by the community. Our players are looking forward to it despite being knocked out of the playoffs (by Keyport last Friday night in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I semifinals). Some people say winning this game is more important than winning a sectional title as this is for the bragging rights for two cities less than a quarter mile apart.
“Players will talk about this game for the rest of their lives. Twenty years from now, the players from both schools may only remember this game. Both teams believe heavily in never going against tradition. The communities and the athletes look forward to it and it is a fixture among Thanksgiving festivities. People move away and come home and visit their families and friends when they come to this game. They look forward to this particular morning to start off Thanksgiving Day.”
Taylor enjoyed competing in the game.
“It was electrifying,” he said. “The games were very thrilling. All of the kids got up for them no matter what the records of the teams were. It’s like another environment. You are playing against your close friends and your biggest rivals on a big stage. I remember looking up at that crowd and seeing friends and family go crazy as we competed to bring home that Friendship Trophy. I remember all of the trash talking that took place in a good way whether we won or lost.
“These days, the trash talking goes back and forth on social media. It’s usually the graduates from both towns who do it. It is all done in a competitive spirit, nothing malicious. No matter the generation or what is going on, this game has the same intense vibe and aura around it.”
Taylor said the game is meaningful to both towns.
“Everyone is excited about it and I think the game is good for both communities,” he said. “It gives people a chance to come together, bond and relate and have a good time on Thanksgiving.”
Largely because of the playoffs, games are no longer the main course on the Thanksgiving Day menu.
“I love playing on Thanksgiving Day,” Taylor said. “I would not change it. I think it is a matter of tradition. I am a man of tradition. We have one of the oldest rivalries and I can’t see us changing it.”
To hear Taylor tell it, fans whose teams no longer play on Thanksgiving Day attend the game between the Blue Bishops and the Scarlet Fliers.
“I like it that way, that there aren’t many games played on Thanksgiving,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s why everyone comes to our game. It’s nice that these other towns turn out for our game. This rivalry is so big that it attracts people from the Shore Conference and across the state.”
Fosque also enjoys having the game on his menu.
“I am all for it for sure,” he said. “There has been some talk about it being moved to the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, but both towns and both programs are pretty much set on not breaking the tradition. Each school in the area has its own tradition, outlook and rivalries. Some teams don’t have a rivalry that is that strong. From Day One, this rivalry has been very strong and that has allowed for our game to be played on Thanksgiving Day.
“This rivalry is strong and passionate. Other schools don’t have rivalries that are as long standing so it’s easier to break the tradition. There is still that passion despite the difference in the size of our schools (Neptune has a larger enrollment). Some rivalries are not evenly matched and that allows them to fade. Or, the schools look for different matchups.”
A bowl-a-thon will take place tonight at 7 at the Bradley Bowl in Bradley Beach. The event will be sponsored by Sportz Farm. The event will benefit Asbury Park, Neptune and Long Branch, Fosque said.
“It’s also an opportunity for the people of Asbury Park and Neptune to get together and celebrate the anticipation of the game,” Fosque said.
The Blue Bishops enter the game at 6-3 overall, including 3-2 in Class B Central in which they finished second among six teams.
Senior quarterback Davon Thompson has completed 52 of 118 passes for 1,008 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has thrown five interceptions. He has rushed for 526 yards and four touchdowns on 86 carries.
Senior wide receiver-defensive back Jaedon Stephens has caught 29 passes for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s averaging 21.2 yards per catch. He has rushed for 172 yards and one touchdown on 16 attempts.
Sophomore slot receiver-defensive back Donte Abrams, who according to Fosque is being recruited as a cornerback by the University of Notre Dame, has hauled in 10 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He has piled up 119 yards and scored one touchdown on 11 carries.
Senior running back Charles Sanders has churned for 279 yards and three touchdowns on 57 carries and has made 55 tackles as a defensive back.
Senior running back Trevor Saunders has rushed for 309 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries. He has caught five passes for 141 yards and one touchdown. Junior Dyquan Young has caught seven passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back TyQuere Davis has rushed for 190 yards and one touchdown on 53 attempts.
Another key player is junior linebacker Namir Argilagos, who has registered 52 tackles, three sacks and one fumble recovery.
Neptune comes into the game at 3-6 overall, including 2-4 in Class B North in which it placed fourth among seven teams. Among its losses were setbacks to Ocean Township and Red Bank Regional. Both teams qualified for the playoffs.
“The season has been disappointing,” Taylor said, “but we are very young playing in a loaded division. We took some lumps, but I have seen the team get better and mature over the course of the year. I am excited to see what we can put together next year with all of the returners we have.”
The Scarlet Fliers are paced by senior quarterback-slot receiver-outside linebacker Rasheed Martin and junior wide receiver Kahmar Rice. The latter leads Neptune in interceptions.
“Rasheed is probably our best overall player,” Taylor said. “He has not had any big looks yet from colleges, but he will probably get something. Rice has made our big plays. Martin has been a leader on and off the field and he leads us in rushing. He also returns punts and is on our kickoff return team.”
Taylor expects a high-scoring game.
“I see a lot of points scored by us,” he said. “Both teams have dynamic skill position players. I expect both teams to make big plays.”
Red Bank Regional 21, Ocean 14: The second-seeded Spartans’ season ended at 8-2 with a loss to the third-ranked Bucs (10-0) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III playoffs.
Ocean senior running back Tyler Thompson scored on an 11-yard run. Ocean quarterback Kenny Pickett tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Joey Aldarelli. He caught 10 passes for 182 yards, averaging 18.2 yards per catch.
Thompson rushed for 1,279 yards and 16 touchdowns on 167 carries on the season. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry. He caught 11 passes for 159 yards, averaging 14.5 yards per catch.
Pickett threw for 1,148 yards, completing 77 of 126 passes for 14 touchdowns. He tossed two interceptions.
Aldarelli caught 25 passes for 359 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch.