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Former High School Football Players Hold Rematch of 15-Year-Old Tie

April 27, 2009 06:00 PM
by Denis Cummings
Former football players at Phillipsburg and Easton high schools were able to replay a famous 1993 game that ended in a tie.

Phillipsburg Wins Rematch Against Rival Easton

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The working class towns of Easton, Pa., and Phillipsburg, N.J., separated by just the Delaware River, have one of high school football’s greatest rivalries. The Easton Red Rovers and Phillipsburg Stateliners have played 102 times since 1905, with the annual game being held on Thanksgiving since 1916.

Thanksgiving is the barometer at which you are judged in these communities,” said Steve Shiffert, a former coach of Easton, to CNN. “What you do on Thanksgiving sticks with you for life.”

Easton leads the all-time series 57-40 with five ties, the last occurring in 1993. This year, Gatorade, as part of a marketing campaign called Mission G, decided to stage a rematch of the ’93 game and film it for a Web documentary.

About 30 players from each team, now in their mid-30s, agreed to return to the schools to workout and practice for eight weeks in preparation for the full-contact game. Many of the players lost more than 30 pounds, including Phillipsburg’s Bruce Lebitz, who lost 60.

Cheerleaders and band members also returned for the game, and 10,000 tickets were sold within 90 minutes of going on sale. More than 13,000 fans gathered Sunday at Lafayette College’s Fisher Stadium to watch the rematch.

In 90-degree heat, Phillipsburg defeated Easton 27-12, giving many players their first win against their archrival. “Sorry, but I’m just so excited. I’ve never beat Easton … we lost to them all four years because I count the tie as a loss,” said game MVP Joe Luke after the win. “I can’t stop smiling. I don’t care if we’re 18, 30 or 60, beating Easton—it’s the best feeling there is.”

Having declared the game a success, Gatorade is looking to stage another rematch game. It is asking fans to submit nominations for a great high school rivalry to feature in the game.

Historical Context: Famous ties

The 1993 Phillipsburg-Easton result will likely never be repeated, as high school games now play overtime until a winner is decided. The same is true for college football, which once had many memorable games end in a tie.

1946: Notre Dame-Army
Army, The Associated Press’ No. 1-ranked team, met No. 2 Notre Dame in front of a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium. Led by 1945 Heisman winner Doc Blanchard, Army had defeated Notre Dame 48-0 the year before; this time, the Irish held Blanchard in check as the teams played to a scoreless tie known as the “Game of the Century.”

1966: Notre Dame-Michigan State
Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian, with his top-ranked Irish tied 10-10 late in the game against No. 2 Michigan State, chose to run out the clock with his team at its own 30-yard line. Notre Dame would retain the No. 1 ranking and win the national championship. “In the history of college football, there might not have been a game with more of a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction than this one,” writes Collegefootballnews.com.

1968: Harvard-Yale
The Harvard-Yale game is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, and its most memorable game was the 1968 tie. Trailing 29-13, Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds to tie. The following day’s Harvard Crimson famously declared, “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29,” which became the title of a 2008 documentary on the game.

Related Topic: “King of the Hill”

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