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East Orange Campus head coach Rae Oliver is very enthused about the annual 'Old Guard' Thanksgiving Day game featuring his Jaguars vs. the Barringer Blue Bears set for 10:30 a.m. next Thursday (Nov. 22) at Schools Stadium in Newark when former Barringer, Iowa and New England Patriot great Andre Tippet will be honored and street next to the stadium will be officialy renamed in his honor. The Old Guard Dinner for former and present players will be held the night before at the Iberia Restaurant in Newark. (Sideline Chatter photo)

Old Guard Boosts EOC-Barringer
As Turkey Day Still Big In Newark

By Steve Tober

Thanksgiving Day football is alive and well in the Brick City on Thursday as the annual ‘Soul Bowl’ between rivals Weequahic and Shabazz takes place at Untermann Field and up Bloomfield Avenue a ways at Schools Stadium it will be Barringer vs. East Orange Campus as ‘The Old Guard” is celebrated in one of the historic holiday gridiron rivalries.

It will be the 103rd meeting between Barringer (4-4) and East Orange Campus (6-3) including that you take into account that EO and Clifford Scott merged to become EOC in 2002.

There was an 18-year interruption in the series due to conflicting schedules and various conference alignments, but the Old Guard had its Turkey Day game back in 2009, and even though EOC has won the last nine games, including a 23-22 nail biter over the Blue Bears in 2016 and 21-0 last year, the tradition has lived on with much gusto.

“The Thanksgiving game between East Orange and Barringer is nothing short of amazing,” said EOC s second-year head coach Rae Oliver, whose young team lost a North 2, Group 5, first round playoff game at Ridge, but has had an otherwise superb season under his guidance. “Starting with the Old Guard’s dinner the night before it’s an incredible experience for all, including the players who attend the diner and hear great stories and reminiscing by former players who were part of the game.

“The kids can truly appreciate the sense of pride in the game and preparing for Thanksgiving morning has a championship-game-like-atmosphere, which will be even greater this year with all the festivities surrounding the day with (former Barringer star) Andre Tippet being honored while a street near the stadium is renamed in his honor.

 “Even though I played for Orange, I had lived most of my early years in East Orange and grew up under the banner of winning EO football teams and all-state players.

“The interesting facts are that the demographics of East Orange change and the history of the city is slowly forgotten. To that point, it is very important that the Old Guard continue their fine tradition of honoring the past players and the game that we historically love.

“I am looking forward to sharing in the latest installment of this historical game and leading the Jaguars into competition vs. the Barringer Blue Bears on Thanksgiving morning!”

The traditional Old Guard Dinneris set for Wednesday evening at Iberia Restaurant in Newark.

“It’s such a great time to be able to see old friends and share memories of what all the Old Guard have experienced through the years,” said Abdul Hassan, the former athletic director at EOC who is a prime mover behind the annual Old Guard Dinner. “The Barringer-East Orange football tradition lives on and in this day and age of Thanksgiving Day games going by the wayside, it’s tremendous to see this one continue, and with gusto!”

The stories told by those who were part of the more than century old tradition of the game are priceless, such as this one told by former East Orange player and Old Guard member John Webb.

He remembers well when as a sixth grader attending Sussex Avenue School in Newark his interest was piqued when it came to the Barringer-East Orange Thanksgiving football game.

“I read an article in The Star-Ledger written by Jerry Izenberg about the Barringer-East Orange Thanksgiving game tradition and it intrigued me so much that I felt. I had to attend the game,” Webb recalled. “I went to the 1966 game played at Martens Stadium in East Orange and when I entered the stadium I was taken back by the size of the crowd. Every seat in the stadium was taken and the overflow was standing on the track behind the two teams. There had to be 10,000 plus fans there.

“At that very moment I said to myself, ‘I have to play for one of these schools, and after graduating eighth grade I decided on East Orange High School using my Aunt Alice’s address at 118 South Grove St.

“I chose East Orange because the coach, Tom Dean, and his players impressed me the most. I loved the control coach Dean had of his team on the field and on the sideline. I watched very move, and when he needed a sub, he turned and pointed at someone seated on the bench and they would jump up and report to his side before entering the game.”

The 2018 version of the EOC-Barringer Thanksgiving Day game features a Jaguars team that has terrific skill position players including junior quarterback Nasir Montgomery and junior wide receiver Quadir Scott. Seniors Kasim Daniels (WR-DB) and Leonard Munford III (RB-DL) are among the veteran standouts for coach Oliver’s squad.

Barringer, under the guidance of first-year head coach Dwayne Williams, who played with Tippet at Iowa, is led by Rutgers commit Zamir Wise, the team’s 4-year starting QB.

Weequahic had been dominating its Turkey Day ‘Soul Bowl’ series with Shabazz, having won seven straight meetings from when the game was first contested on Thanksgiving in 2008 right through 2014. Shabazz won 20-6 in 2015 and then the team that won the North 2, Group 1 title also captured the ‘Soul Bowl’ holiday meeting in the same season as the Indians swept both games (22-8 on Turkey Day and 18-8 in the N2G1 final at Kean) in 2016, and Shabazz did the same, going 2-0 vs. Weequahic in 2017 with a pair of shutout wins, 7-0, on Thanksgiving and 35-0 in the N2G1 title tilt.

“Montclair and Bloomfield end their Thanksgiving Day game after last year, but it’s still alive and well with our game that receives a tremendous boost from the ‘Old Guard’ dinner, and with Shabazz and Weequahic who are keeping their series alive as well,” said Oliver. “I love Thanksgiving Day football and we’re definitely enthused about keeping it going for years to come!”

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister       

The legendary Tom Dean, seen here talking to one of his 1960s East Orange Panthers football teams, was a coach local players in the city wanted to play for as EO thrived as a program and generated additional interest with annual 'Old Guard' Thanksgiving game with Barringer. (photo is courtesy of EOC)

The East Orange Panthers and Barringer Blue Bears were the original teams as part of the annual Thanksgiving Day game boosted by The Old Guard and reinsituted in 2009 with East Orange Campus, which was the merger of EO and Clifford Scott in 2002, and the Blue Bears as the two teams now prepare for their 103rd meeting Thursday at Schools Stadium.

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