It could also be the last time the Falcons and Trojans play for the foreseeable future.
According to Mike Wolfthal, Bishop Ahr’s athletic director, the Trojans have successfully appealed to the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) to move from the White Division, where they now play, to the Blue Division beginning next fall. Bishop Ahr will play its six Blue Division opponents, and the three remaining games will be against Shore Conference teams.
“We have an agreement with the Shore to play our non-division games against teams of similar size in their conference,” Wolfthal said. “But we’ve also been assured by the Shore that it would not stand in the way of [Bishop Ahr] continuing to play St. Joe’s.”
Wolfthal isn’t committed to making any future plans for the program just yet. That’s because Bishop Ahr’s move to the Blue Division could be superseded by a mandate that’s currently being considered, which would pool all non-public high schools that field football teams into one conference with divisions based on their locations. The state association’s executive committee approved the measure at a meeting in May and moved to have it voted on by the state association’s general membership at its meeting Dec. 7 at the Pines Manor in Edison.
Wolfthal said he does not favor the formation of the non-public conference but that he would “wholeheartedly support” whatever the NJSIAA membership decides.
St. Joseph head football coach Casey Ransone was not asked to address the possibility his team would become part of the new conference, but he shared his thoughts on the annual rivalry game with Bishop Ahr.
“It’s just a natural rivalry between two schools who want nothing more than to win the game,” the coach said. “At the same time, each program has great respect for the other.”
Ransone, who will complete his third season at the helm, said even though the game will not be played on Thanksgiving, it will still generate an exciting atmosphere, especially since there is no telling when the two teams will meet again.
Ransone said a Thanksgiving game was something that had been a part of his household since he was born. A native of Hillsborough, his family was a next-door neighbor of Joe Paulino, then coach of Hillsborough High School.
“Our family always attended Hillsborough’s Thanksgiving game with Somerville,” he said. “It was a day the entire community would come out and support the team.”
Ransone’s counterpart at Bishop Ahr, Joe Vigilante, who is finishing his second season as head coach, was also a player for the Trojans and recalled how good it felt to defeat John F. Kennedy Memorial High School when the teams met on Thanksgiving.
“Last year was the first time I coached when we played St. Joe’s, and we came up a little short (21-14 loss),” he said. “But regardless of the score, I’m hopeful that by playing football, our players learned something about themselves that will carry through into their adulthoods.”
Edison High School coach Matt Fulham said his most memorable moment in 11 years as head coach was in 2006 — his second season.
The Eagles were 2-7 and heavy underdogs against Thanksgiving rival J.P. Stevens High School, which made the state playoffs that year.
“We scored in the final seconds and our quarterback, Erik Janz, completed a pass to Mike Campbell for a two-point conversion,” he said. “That won the game, 29-28, for us, and it was quite a thrill.”
Fulham said this year’s game marks the 50th anniversary of the series between the crosstown rivals. At stake, as always, is the King of the Limb trophy awarded to the winning team by the Edison Township PBA.
Metuchen High School coach Bob Ulmer said what he remembers most about Thanksgiving was when he was a player for Bound Brook High School.
“We played Immaculata High School, which was undefeated, and we beat [the Spartans], 7-6,” he said. “It was a standingroom only crowd, and I recall feeling totally exhausted after the game but very proud.
“We’ll be playing our longtime rivals, Highland Park on Thanksgiving, and that’s been a great rivalry, too. It’s when the alumni come home and watch us, and the winner gets the Goal Post Trophy.” The Board of Directors of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey elected Mark Ford as its president at a reorganization meeting held Nov. 16 at the association’s offices in Manalapan.
Ford, one of the leading trainers in Meadowlands history, owns and operates the Mark Ford Training Center. He fills the position occupied for more than a dozen years by Thomas Luchento.
“We made tremendous gains while Tom was president,” Ford said in a prepared statement. “And we will redouble our efforts to expand racing opportunities in New Jersey, pushing ahead with plans for an expanded gaming referendum in 2016. We thank Tom Luchento for his leadership and know he will continue to contribute as a member of the Board of Directors.”
In the election of other officers, Mark Mullen was named first vice president, Robert Boni as second vice president, Chris Ryder as third vice president, Alfred Ochsner Jr. as treasurer and Anthony Romano as secretary.
New Jersey’s two harness tracks — the Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway — have been awarded a combined 200 racing dates for 2016.
The dates were approved at the New Jersey Racing Commission meeting Nov. 18 in Trenton.
Mark Ford, attending his first Commission meeting as president of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ), advised the commission that the SBOANJ was reluctantly accepting the Meadowlands dates as an experiment for 2016.
“We are concerned about losing dates in January and February and replacing them with September and October dates,” Ford said.
The Meadowlands requested 90 dates, Fridays and Saturdays only (plus Sunday, May 8), from Jan. 2 through Aug. 6 and from Sept. 9 through Dec. 31 (dark on Dec. 24]. Post time is at 7 p.m.
Freehold received 110 dates, racing Jan. 1 through May 21 plus Aug. 26 and 27, and Sept. 2 through Dec. 10. Racing days will be Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays plus three holidays on Mondays — Jan. 18, Feb. 15 and Sept. 5. Dark days are Sept. 1 and Nov. 24. Post time is at 12:30 p.m.
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