UNION COUNTY, NJ — Thanksgiving football in Union County is down to just two games.
They just happen to be the longest and oldest rivalries in the county and among the longest and oldest in the state.
This week will see Roselle Park High School at Abraham Clark High School of Roselle the night before Thanksgiving, because Abraham Clark now has permanent lights, and then Plainfield High School at Westfield High School on Thanksgiving morning.
“We want to keep it,” Roselle Park head coach Greg Dunkerton said of the Roselle Park–Abraham Clark Thanksgiving rivalry. “I know the community wants to keep it. It’s something the community gets behind.”
Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 6 p.m., at Abraham Clark’s Arminio Field, will be the 103rd meeting between the visiting Panthers and the host Rams. Abraham Clark is 7-4 and has won seven straight, securing its first winning season since finishing 6-4 in 2017. Roselle Park is 5-5 and went 1-1 in North, Group 1 regional invitational tournament play, after a 4-4 regular season. The Panthers also seek to finish better than .500 for the first time since 2017, when they came in at 7-4.
Abraham Clark defeated Jonathan Dayton, Bordentown Regional and Haddon Heights high schools to capture the first-ever South, Group 2 regional invitational tournament title.
“We look forward to hosting the game now under our lights,” second-year Abraham Clark head coach Ibrahim Halsey said.
Abraham Clark won last year’s game, 32-14, at Roselle Park on Thanksgiving for its second straight victory against the Panthers.
Roselle Park still leads the series 52-42-8.
On Thursday, Nov. 24, at 11 a.m., at Westfield’s Gary Kehler Stadium, it will be the 117th meeting between the visiting Cardinals (5-5) and host Blue Devils (7-3). Westfield and Plainfield continued their game last year after the 2020 contest was canceled because of the pandemic. Westfield won for the ninth straight time last year and for the third consecutive clash by shutout.
It was Westfield 14, Plainfield 0 last year at Plainfield’s Hub Stine Field on Thanksgiving.
Westfield now leads the series 64-45-7.
Westfield-Plainfield is one of the longest-running Thanksgiving rivalries in New Jersey.
Last year, Millville beat Vineland, 47-0, at home in the 150th meeting. Vineland still leads the series 67-64-19.
Vineland (3-8) is scheduled to host Millville (9-2) on Thanksgiving at 10:30 a.m. at Gittone Stadium.
Millville just captured the South Jersey, Group 4 sectional state championship and beat Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional state champ Mainland, 18-14, on Sunday, Nov. 20, at Cherokee in the first-ever Group 4 semifinals. The first-ever Group 4 final is scheduled to be played at Rutgers either on Saturday, Dec. 3, or Sunday, Dec. 4.
The last three Union County Thanksgiving rivalries to come to an end were New Providence High School vs. Governor Livingston High School, which ended last year; Arthur L. Johnson High School vs. Rahway High School, which ended in 2019; and Union High School vs. Linden High School, which ended in 2017.
The series between Union and Linden, with a few interruptions, began in 1932. New Providence faced Governor Livingston on the holiday last year for the 20th straight season. Arthur L. Johnson and Rahway began playing each other on the holiday in 2004.
Wednesday, Nov. 23, 6 p.m., Arminio Field, Roselle
Roselle Park (5-5) at Abraham Clark (7-4): Roselle Park improved dramatically this season after a 1-9 campaign in 2021 that ended with nine straight losses. After an 0-3 start, the Panthers reeled off five wins in six games, including a victory at home against Secaucus High School in its first North, Group 1 regional invitational tournament contest. Junior running back Adrian Palacios leads Roselle Park in rushing with 731 yards. Senior linebacker Elijah Ignacio leads in total tackles with 49, 37 of them solo and 12 assisted. Abraham Clark began 0-4, with three of the losses by a combined total of just 12 points. The Rams rebounded to win their next four but fell short of gaining enough power points to qualify for the state playoffs out of South, Group 2. Instead, the Rams kept on winning in the South, Group 2 RIT games and won the section with three more victories, for a seven-game winning streak at present time. The Rams are led on offense by the rushing of senior running back Emmanuel Lyles, who has carried the ball 125 times for 1,159 yards and 15 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Nazir Baker has thrown the ball 39 times and has completed 25 of his passes for 344 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
Thursday, Nov. 24, 11 a.m., Gary Kehler Stadium, Westfield
Plainfield (5-5) at Westfield (7-3): For the second straight year, Plainfield is on the cusp of its first winning season since 2005, when the Cardinals finished 6-4. Like last year, when they fell short in a 14-0 loss at home to Westfield, a win against the Blue Devils would clinch that long-awaited winning season Plainfield has been seeking to secure. Last year, Plainfield started 0-3 with first-year head coach James Williams, who had previously been the head coach at Abraham Clark. The Cardinals then bounced back to win five of their next six games before the home loss to Westfield on Thanksgiving left them with a 5-5 finish for 2021. This year, Plainfield began 0-4 before the Cardinals rebounded again to get to 5-5 at the moment. One-point losses at Elizabeth last year and this year prevented the Cardinals from making the playoffs both seasons. This year, Plainfield went on to win the first-ever North, Group 5 regional invitational tournament with triumphs against Livingston and Bloomfield. Junior quarterback Ala-Meen Watkins has thrown for 1,178 yards on 60 completions in 110 attempts. He has thrown 13 touchdowns passes, six of them to senior Samir Cherry, and has been intercepted only twice. Westfield senior quarterback Trey Brown, the son of former New York Giants quarterback Dave Brown, has completed 72-of-139 passes for 765 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 775 yards on 125 carries and scored seven touchdowns. He will play lacrosse in college at Maryland. Westfield’s leading rusher is senior Dylan Wragg, who has gained 1,057 yards on 193 carries and scored a team-leading nine touchdowns. In the North 1, Group 5 playoffs, Westfield won at home against Bridgewater-Raritan High School, 28-7, and then lost at Union City High School, 20-14.
Last 11 Roselle Park–Abraham Clark results
2021: Abraham Clark 32, Roselle Park 14, at Roselle Park.
2020: No game due to the pandemic.
2019: Abraham Clark 50, Roselle Park 36, at Abraham Clark.
2018: First time there was no game, because Roselle Park fielded only a junior varsity team.
2017: Roselle Park 7, Abraham Clark 6, at Roselle Park — the 100th game.
2016: Abraham Clark 42, Roselle Park 20, at Roselle Park.
2015: Abraham Clark 41, Roselle Park 33, at Abraham Clark.
2014: Roselle Park 29, Abraham Clark 14, at Roselle Park.
2013: Roselle Park 24, Abraham Clark 12, at Abraham Clark.
2012: Roselle Park 28, Abraham Clark 14, at Roselle Park.
2011: Abraham Clark 27, Roselle Park 0, at Abraham Clark.
Roselle Park leads series 52-42-8.
Last 11 Plainfield-Westfield results
2021: Westfield 14, Plainfield 0, at Plainfield.
2020: First time there was no game, due to the pandemic.
2019: Westfield 24, Plainfield 0, at Westfield.
2018: Westfield 27, Plainfield 0, at Plainfield.
2017: Westfield 37, Plainfield 7, at Westfield.
2016: Westfield 30, Plainfield 14, at Plainfield.
2015: Westfield 32, Plainfield 6, at Westfield.
2014: Westfield 6, Plainfield 0, at Plainfield.
2013: Westfield 34, Plainfield 0, at Westfield.
2012: Westfield 30, Plainfield 16, at Plainfield.
2011: Plainfield 22, Westfield 21, at Westfield.
Westfield leads series 64-45-7.