LAKEWOOD – The Thanksgiving Day rivalry, the victim of schedule conflicts on and off the field, is over.
Only the memories remain.
And there were plenty of memories renewed when Toms River South visited Lakewood in the 100th renewal of one of the state’s oldest high school football rivalries.
South downed the Piners 34-0 in Shore Conference Freedom Division play at Russell E Wright Field. The Indians sped to a 57-39-4 series lead. The contest was dubbed the Centennial Football Game. The teams will meet next season. The Shore Conference will announce the schedule in February.
Both schools put on numerous festivities, including bonfires. Perhaps the highlight was an Alumni Breakfast for ex-players from both teams in the Lakewood High School Commons, Lakewood’s cafeteria. Among the eats served were eggs, bacon, bagels and muffins. Also served, of course, was plenty of fellowship.
“The breakfast went over great!” said retired Lakewood athletics trainer Pat Halpin, a member of the Centennial Game Committee and a former South athlete. “Having players from both teams was a treat. Everyone seemed to love talking about the rivalry. I think Lakewood had more than 100 former players attend. Including South, there were about 130 total players at the breakfast.”
Halpin said nearly 2,000 fans attended the game.
“The atmosphere was great!” she said. “Alumni loved seeing each other. Some hadn’t seen one another since graduation. The game event was great. I loved seeing the South and Lakewood bands playing together along with both alumni bands before the game.”
Halpin said monies raised will be divided equally between South and Lakewood. Named South’s Most Valuable Player of the game was running back Travis Squire. Lakewood offensive lineman-defensive end Francisco Santillan was named the Piners’ MVP of the game. Each will receive $250 awards to help defray the cost of a college education.
“Our plan is to give out more awards – one to a football player, one to a cheerleader and one to a band member from each school – to help the students with the expenses of their college educations,” Halpin said. “Monies were raised from shirt sales, tickets and the sale of commemorative coins. The Lakewood Elks Club put on a 50/50 for awards. The Lakewood Black Hawks sold Terrible Towels to raise money for the awards they give out. We’ve been selling sweatshirts on the Internet because of the amount of people requesting them.”
Dave Correll Sr. (South), Jim White (Lakewood), Dave Correll Jr. (South) and Jim Colbert (Lakewood) were the game’s public address announcers.
Halpin sad the Centennial Game Committee began working on the festivities in May.
“Everyone on the committee did a wonderful job of putting on this great event,” Halpin said, “but I do want to make a shout-out to Tina Watson, Dave Correll Jr. and Dave Correll Sr. for helping with the amazing program for the game. The fans loved it. All of the committee members should receive credit for their roles and hard work. Credit should also go to (South principal) Mike Citta, who was a member of the committee and had South print the game’s tickets and programs, which everyone is keeping as collector’s items.”
South led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 27-0 through three quarters. The Indians added a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Jeremy Rose opened the scoring with a 1-yard run and Cameron Stein followed with his first of four extra-point kicks. Bo Marro scored on a 6-yard run. Devin Raevis blazed 66 yards with an interception return for a touchdown. Devin Porsch scored from one yard. Squire capped the scoring with a 16-yard dash.
Squire rushed for 85 yards on 13 carries. Lakewood quarterback T.J. Paturzo raced for 116 yards on 28 carries for the Piners.
“I have always loved the Thanksgiving Day game,” Halpin said. “It was always special for me as I got the chance to visit with so many former athletes from Lakewood and my friends, coaches and classmates from South. Heading into the game, the records of the teams didn’t matter, but for the winning team it was a big deal. However, I do understand that with the changes in the football schedule it doesn’t make much sense to keep the game on Thanksgiving Day.
“If either team is in the playoffs, it wants to concentrate on them. If not, it’s too many weeks in-between games.”
South concluded its season at 4-6 overall, including 2-4 in the Freedom Division. Lakewood wound up 2-8 overall, including 0-6 in the seven-team Freedom Division. South finished fifth. Lakewood placed last.