Rival NJ High Schools Play Their Final Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl Football Game

The Clifton Mustangs and Passaic Indians played the final “Turkey Bowl” Thursday, marking the end of a game that has been played since 1992

What to Know

  • What has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for generations in New Jersey has come to an end for two rival high schools
  • The Clifton Mustangs and Passaic Indians played the final “Turkey Bowl” Thursday, marking the end of a game that has been played since 1992
  • School officials say longer high school sports seasons forced the change, a decision which they acknowledge would upset some people

What has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for generations in New Jersey has come to an end for two rival high schools.

The Clifton Mustangs and Passaic Indians played their final “Turkey Bowl” on Thursday, marking the end of a game that has brought alumni for both schools together for more than two decades.

The two schools have been playing on the fourth Thursday of every November since 1992, joining the tradition of New Jersey high school football that has been played on Thanksgiving for over 100 years.

“I graduated in 1993. So 1992 was the football season, and that's the first year that we started playing this game on Thanksgiving,” said Clifton Head Coach Ralph Cinque. “I played in the first one and coached in the last one. Pretty special.”

School officials say longer high school sports seasons forced the change.

“They have been out here since July. And to go all the way through November, and then it overlaps with the winter season — it takes a lot out of the kids academically, and also physically,” said Passaic High Schools’ Athletic Director Kimberly Kenny, who recognized that the decision to end the tradition may upset some people.

During this year’s game, many former players for both sides came back for one last hurrah and to re-live some memories — while the current generation forms some of their own.

“Former students, former players, their children are playing right now. So what we get is the true form of a community at its purest form,” said Ahmad Field. The Passaic alumnus was upset to see the annual event come to an end.

“The people making decisions may not understand what this means. It’s Thanksgiving, the people from the community want to be here,” he said.

Although this year will be the final time the two school meet on the gridiron on Thanksgiving, the rival teams will still play one another at another time during future regular seasons.

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