Roselle Park vs. Roselle football will be for 100th time in November; Among longest-running Thanksgiving Day rivalries in state

Past coaches Wagner, Grasso, Sr. reminisce about past games, importance of event

PHOTOS BY JR PARACHINI – Herm Shaw Field – for the second straight season, which will be a first – will be the site for the 100th game between Roselle Park and Roselle this Thanksgiving.
Roselle Park is very much looking forward to the 100th game against Roselle and will be looking to snap Roselle’s two-game winning streak in the series so the Panthers can continue to hold on to the Golden Shoe.
Roselle Park’s home-opener is scheduled for Sept. 8 vs. South Hunterdon.
Here are Roselle Park’s seniors.
Here is the Roselle Park coaching staff.
Here are Roselle Park’s captains – all seniors – for the 2017 season. Standing, from left, are Jawahn Gasque, Sean Matthews, Oniks Fazliu and Devin Hilburn. Kneeling, from left, are Vincent Figueredo and Enzo Brutus.
Roselle Park leads the Thanksgiving Day series against neighborhood rival Roselle by a 50-41-8 margin.
Roselle Park will open its season Sept. 1 at Sussex Tech at 4 p.m. The Panthers will have two bye weeks in the month of October.
Roselle Park has qualified for the North 2, Group 1 playoffs four of the last five years.

ROSELLE PARK – Since 1915 – for more than 100 years time – the Roselle Park and Roselle high school football teams have looked forward to doing battle against each other on Thanksgiving.

Annual late Thursdays in November in that section of Union County, NJ take on the meaning of passing the ball early in the morning to passing the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce later in the afternoon.

This November the 100th game will be played.

For the first time in the series the game will be played at the same venue for the second consecutive season. It was Roselle’s turn to host this year, but E. Ralph Arminio Field is under renovation.

That means that kickoff will take place again at Roselle Park’s Herm Shaw Field on Thursday, Nov. 23 at 10:30 a.m.

No matter how hard the powers-that-be try to eliminate Thanksgiving Day football in New Jersey so the state can have an eventual Super Bowl champion (playing to a sectional championship appears to be not good enough anymore) Roselle Park vs. Roselle has stood the test of time.

The Panthers vs. the Rams is still on.

“The kids and the towns still look forward to it a great deal,” Roselle Park sixth-year head coach Terry Hanratty said.

“It was a big deal for us last year,” Roselle fifth-year head coach James Williams said. “We wanted to have a chance to end a very good season with a win.”

Roselle won the first five games in the series and has won the last two. The school that wins three games in a row claims possession of the Golden Shoe.

Roselle Park, which leads the series 50-41-8, took back the Golden Shoe after winning three straight from 2012-2014.

Roselle’s 42-20 win at Roselle Park last year enabled the Rams to produce their first-ever 10-win season.

Coaches that led their teams in exactly a quarter of the games – 25 each – were John Wagner of Roselle Park, who is Roselle Park Class of 1969, and Lou Grasso, Sr. of Roselle, who is Roselle Class of 1968.

Wagner, the head coach at Roselle Park from 1981-2005, had a 14-10-1 record in the game. Grasso, Sr., the head coach at Roselle from 1979-2003, was 11-13-1. The lone tie was the last one in the series, a 0-0 deadlock at Roselle in 1985.

Wagner, who is the winningest football coach at Roselle Park with a record there of 150-92-2 (.620), attended 51 of the games, beginning at age 10 when he was a student at Aldene Elementary School. Wagner was also an assistant coach on Geoff Hill’s staff for five seasons from 1976-1980.

“The 1985 game stands out because it was a rare year that the game was not played on Thanksgiving,” said Wagner, who has been the head coach at Point Pleasant Beach since 2011.

Wagner guided Roselle Park to the 1992 and 1993 North 2, Group 1 state championships and Point Pleasant Beach to the 2013 Central Jersey, Group 1 state crown – the program’s first in the playoff era.

“It was rained out on Thursday and again on Friday and finally played on Saturday,” Wagner continued. “At the end of the game, because of the rain and all the mud, players from the same team were tackling each other.”

That game resulted in the eighth and final tie in the series and the seventh tie that was a 0-0 final score.

“The game was always popular and in the late 1980s the Roselle Park and Roselle Pop Warner teams combined,” Wagner said. “That drummed up more interest.

“It went in cycles with the kids that we both had. It was still a great thing, with the college kids coming home and what took place at Frenchy’s the night before.

“It was an annual thing where the kids played the game and then afterwards we pulled the equipment signaling the end of another season.”

In the 1980s and 1990s both Roselle Park and Roselle played in state championship games that took place after the Thanksgiving Day game. That was the case for Roselle in 1981 (North 2, Group 1), 1989 (North 2, Group 2) and 1990 (North 2, Group 2) and for Roselle Park in 1980, 1985, 1986 1992 and 1993, all in North 2, Group 1.

“Lou (Grasso, Sr.) and I made it a point to keep the game on Thanksgiving the years we had championship games that followed,” Wagner said. “It was important to both of us for the game to remain on Thanksgiving morning and keep the tradition going during those years.”

The three times Wagner played in the game – his sophomore, junior and senior seasons of 1966, 1967 and 1968 – Roselle won in 1966 and Roselle Park in 1967 and 1968.

“They were all exciting,” said Wagner, who also said that freshmen did not play varsity back then. “That was before the playoffs, so you knew it was always going to be the last game of the season. It was a big rivalry game for everyone involved.”

The three games Grasso, Sr. played in were 1965, 1966 and 1967. Roselle also won the 1965 game, which was played at Roselle. He played for one year with his older brother Jerry, Roselle Class of 1966.

Like Wagner, Grasso, Sr. was also an assistant at Roselle before he became the head coach. He was an assistant in 1976, 1977 and 1978 before succeeding Kenny Holmes.

“It was the type of game that no matter how your season went you always looked forward to it,” Grasso, Sr. said. “It was tradition. It was the end of the season.

“I’ve been to the last few, but the crowds seem less.”

The last time Wagner attended the game was in 2011, which was his first year at PPB. He didn’t have a game on Thanksgiving morning that year.

“We had quite a few exciting games, me and John,” Grasso, Sr. said. “It was a battle every year.”

The first time Roselle reached a state championship game was in 1981 when the Rams got to the North 2, Group 1 final against Brearley. In the Thanksgiving Day game that year, Grasso, Sr. lost senior quarterback Tim Hansen to a broken arm, with Hansen unavailable to play in the sectional final vs. Brearley.

“Some teams now play on Wednesday night and don’t play everyone,” Grasso, Sr. said. “Back then we played as hard as we could on Thanksgiving vs. Roselle Park, despite what the circumstances were. That’s just the way it was.”

Top-seeded Brearley went on to win North 2, Group 1 for the first time in the playoff era in 1981, edging Roselle 17-15 in the final.

“At Roselle we played every game like it was a championship game,” Grasso, Sr. said.

When you pit neighborhood rivals against each other, especially on the same holiday every year, you can usually put everything aside. The Panthers simply wanted to beat the Rams and the Rams simply wanted to best the Panthers.

“It was always a big deal for us and for me as a player and as a coach,” Grasso, Sr. said. “It was for bragging rights.

“You went across the railroad tracks to play a big game every year.”

 

MATTHEWS LEGACY FOR ROSELLE PARK CONTINUES

 

Roselle Park senior captain Sean Matthews, a three-year starter and mainstay on both lines for the Panthers, is one of four Matthews to have played against Roselle on Thanksgiving.

His uncles Steve and Rob played for Roselle Park in the 1990s and his older brother Brian helped lead the 2012 team to the North 2, Group 1 state championship game. Brian now plays at Kean University, with this being his senior season.

“It means a lot to be part of the 100th game,” Matthews said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it. There’s a lot of tradition.”

Roselle Park’s ultimate goal is to have a game scheduled after playing Roselle on Thanksgiving. That would mean the Panthers would then be preparing to play in this year’s North 2, Group 1 final.

“We have eight guys back on both sides and we’ve worked real hard in the off-season,” Matthews said. “We lost several close games last year, so our mission this year is to turn that around.”

 

 

ROSELLE PARK-ROSELLE

THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS:

 

THE SIGNORELLO FAMILY BONFIRE

 

ROSELLE PARK DAD’S CLUB-SPONSORED SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS AT FRENCHY’S RESTAURANT ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT

 

THE UNICO-SPONSORED THURSDAY MORNING BREAKFAST

INCLUDING ROSELLE PARK AND ROSELLE DIGNITARIES

AND CAPTAINS OF BOTH TEAMS

 

 

THE SCORES:

 

2017: Roselle at Roselle Park, Nov. 23, 10:30 a.m. – Herm Shaw Field

 

2016: Roselle 42, Roselle Park 20 – at Roselle Park

 

2015: Roselle 41, Roselle Park 33 – at Roselle

 

2014: Roselle Park 29, Roselle 14 – at Roselle Park

 

2013: Roselle Park 24, Roselle 12 – at Roselle

 

2012: Roselle Park 28, Roselle 14 – at Roselle Park

 

2011: Roselle 27, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

2010: Roselle 35, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

2009: Roselle 35, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

2008: Roselle 28, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

2007: Roselle Park 28, Roselle 14 – at Roselle

 

2006: Roselle Park 16, Roselle 12 – at Roselle Park

 

2005: Roselle Park 21, Roselle 14 – at Roselle

 

2004: Roselle Park 35, Roselle 6 – at Roselle Park

 

2003: Roselle Park 13, Roselle 12 – at Roselle

 

2002: Roselle 14, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

2001: Roselle 48, Roselle Park 22 – at Roselle

 

2000: Roselle Park 19, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1999: Roselle Park 20, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1998: Roselle 28, Roselle Park 13 – at Roselle Park

 

1997: Roselle Park 26, Roselle 16 – at Roselle

 

1996: Roselle Park 29, Roselle 7 – at Roselle Park

 

1995: Roselle Park 12, Roselle 6 – at Roselle

 

1994: Roselle Park 7, Roselle 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1993: Roselle Park 26, Roselle 12 – at Roselle

 

1992: Roselle Park 28, Roselle 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1991: Roselle 26, Roselle Park 7 – at Roselle

 

1990: Roselle Park 17, Roselle 8 – at Roselle Park

 

1989: Roselle 6, Roselle Park 3 – at Roselle

 

1988: Roselle 22, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1987: Roselle 28, Roselle Park 14 – at Roselle

 

1986: Roselle Park 17, Roselle 7 – at Roselle Park

 

1985: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle

 

1984: Roselle Park 14, Roselle 12 – at Roselle Park

 

1983: Roselle 26, Roselle Park 2 – at Roselle

 

1982: Roselle 18, Roselle Park 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1981: Roselle 6, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

1980: Roselle 22, Roselle Park 20 – at Roselle Park

 

1979: Roselle Park 29, Roselle 12 – at Roselle

 

1978: Roselle Park 22, Roselle 16 – at Roselle Park

 

1977: Roselle Park 14, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1976: Roselle 14, Roselle Park 2 – at Roselle Park

 

1975: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle

 

1974: Roselle Park 10, Roselle 7 – at Roselle Park

 

1973: Roselle 26, Roselle Park 10 – at Roselle Park

 

1972: Roselle 19, Roselle Park 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1971: Roselle Park 40, Roselle Park 14 – at Roselle

 

1970: Roselle Park 21, Roselle 14 – at Roselle Park

 

1969: Roselle Park 40, Roselle 6 – at Roselle

 

1968: Roselle Park 39, Roselle 12 – at Roselle Park

 

1967: Roselle Park 15, Roselle 14 – at Roselle

 

1966: Roselle 14, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1965: Roselle 21, Roselle Park 6 – at Roselle

 

1964: Roselle 16, Roselle Park 13 – at Roselle Park

 

1963: Roselle Park 13, Roselle 7 – at Roselle

 

1962: Roselle Park 7, Roselle 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1961: Roselle Park 19, Roselle 13 – at Roselle

 

1960: Roselle 26, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1959: Roselle 28, Roselle Park 7 – at Roselle

 

1958: Roselle Park 32, Roselle 7 – at Roselle Park

 

1957: Roselle 13, Roselle Park 7 – at Roselle

 

1956: Roselle 14, Roselle Park 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1955: Roselle Park 12, Roselle 6 – at Roselle

 

1954: Roselle 13, Roselle Park 12 – at Roselle Park

 

1953: Roselle Park 20, Roselle 7 – at Roselle

 

1952: Roselle Park 18, Roselle 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1951: Roselle Park 12, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1950: Roselle 25, Roselle Park 13 – at Roselle Park

 

1949: Roselle Park 33, Roselle 7 – at Roselle

 

1948: Roselle Park 7, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1947: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle

 

1946: Roselle Park 12, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1945: Roselle Park 32, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1944: Roselle Park 26, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1943: Roselle Park 25, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1942: Roselle 9, Roselle Park 2 – at Roselle Park

 

1941: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle

 

1940: Roselle Park 7, Roselle 2 – at Roselle Park

 

1939: Roselle 6, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

1938: Roselle 16, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1937: Roselle Park 19, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1936: Roselle Park 6, Roselle 6 (tie) – at Roselle Park

 

1935: Roselle 18, Roselle Park 6 – at Roselle

 

1934: Roselle 19, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1933: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle

 

1932: Roselle 13, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1931: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle

 

1930: Roselle Park 0, Roselle 0 (tie) – at Roselle Park

 

1929: Roselle Park 51, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1928: Roselle Park 20, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1927: Roselle 6, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

1926: Roselle Park 6, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1925: Roselle Park 6, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1924: Roselle Park 21, Roselle 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1923: Roselle Park 41, Roselle 0 – at Roselle

 

1922: Roselle 19, Roselle Park 6 – at Roselle Park

 

1921: Roselle 29, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

1920: Roselle 28, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle Park

 

1919: Roselle 39, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

1915: Roselle 81, Roselle Park 0 – at Roselle

 

(Games were not played in 1916, 1917 and 1918 due to World War I.)

 

SERIES: Roselle Park leads 50-41-8.

 

7 OF THE 8 TIES WERE 0-0 SCORES.

 

LONGEST ROSELLE PARK WIN STREAK: (7) 1943-1949.

Roselle Park also won 6 straight from 1992-1997 and

5 straight from 2003-2007.

 

LONGEST ROSELLE WIN STREAK: (5) 1915-1922 (first 5 games).

Roselle also won 4 straight from 1980-1983 and 2008-2011.

 

AT HERM SHAW FIELD – Roselle Park is 25-23-2.

 

AT E. RALPH ARMINIO FIELD – Roselle is 18-25-6.

 

ROSELLE SHUTOUT VICTORIES: 18.

 

ROSELLE PARK SHUTOUT VICTORIES: 16.

 

ROSELLE CONSECUTIVE SHUTOUT VICTORIES:

4 (twice)

1915, 1919, 1920, 1921 (the first 4 games) and 2008-2011.

 

ROSELLE PARK CONSECUTIVE SHUTOUT VICTORIES:

4 (twice)

1923-1926 and 1943-1943.

 

LARGEST ROSELLE MARGIN OF VICTORY (81):

1915: Roselle 81-0 – at Roselle.

 

LARGEST ROSELLE PARK MARGIN OF VICTORY (51):

1929: Roselle Park 51-0 – at Roselle.

 

CLOSEST VICTORIES:

1962 at Roselle Park – Roselle Park 7, Roselle 6

2003 at Roselle – Roselle Park 13, Roselle 12

 

ROSELLE PARK HEAD COACH

JOHN WAGNER’S 25-SEASON (1981-2005)

RECORD IN GAME: 14-10-1

Wagner is Roselle Park Class of 1969.

 

ROSELLE HEAD COACH

LOU GRASSO, SR.’S 25-SEASON (1979-2003)

RECORD IN GAME: 11-13-1

Grasso, Sr. is Roselle Class of 1968.

 

 

TOP 10 LONGEST THANKSGIVING DAY

FOOTBALL RIVALRIES IN NEW JERSEY:

 

1-Millville-Vineland, 145 years

 

2-Westfield-Plainfield, 113 years

 

3-Phillipsburg-Easton, Pa., 111 years

 

4-Haddonfield-Haddon Heights, 108 years

 

5-Salem-Woodstown, 107 years

 

6-Barringer-East Orange Campus, 104 years

 

7-Roselle Park-Roselle, 100 years

 

Middle Township-Lower Cape May, 100 years

 

9-Toms River South-Lakewood, 98 years

 

10-Ocean City-Pleasantville, 96 years

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