Asbury Park vs. Neptune Back After One-Year Hiatus By John Sorce

NEPTUNE CITY – Every year on Thanksgiving Day, Asbury Park head coach Tim Fosque thinks back to his days suiting up in this very game as a player for the Blue Bishops.

After playing in this game four times, Fosque is about to coach this game for the 20th time, and his third as a head coach.

“To this day, I still take on some of those same feelings that I felt as a player, just the excitement and the bragging rights that come with winning this game every year,” Fosque said. “This game is a festival and one that both towns look forward to year in and year out.”

Last season’s holiday matchup between the Blue Bishops and Scarlet Fliers scheduled to be played in Asbury Park was unfortunately canceled due to a violence threat. Fosque said his seniors were the most disappointed because they would not have an opportunity to play in the Thanksgiving game their senior years.

“It was very upsetting, especially for the seniors because when they look back on their high school days later in life, they won’t have the memories of playing in the Thanksgiving Day game their senior year,” Fosque said.

But the game will be back in 2018, set for a 10:30 a.m. kickoff at Neptune High School.

Neptune head coach Tarig Holman, who is in his second year leading the Scarlet Fliers, did not get to experience this game last season. But he is excited to take in the atmosphere this year.

“I hadn’t been part of it before, so just seeing what happened last year and how important it was and how excited the community was to get the game back and hopefully keeping it moving forward is something that’s important not only to the current players, but it’s important to the past players, the alumni and those that are coming up and are looking forward to playing in this game too one day,” Holman said. “I got a chance to watch some of the younger kids play in the AYF (American Youth Football) and Pop Warner levels and anytime Neptune is playing Asbury, it’s a big game.”

Fosque is no stranger to this game, and he compared the atmosphere to that of a state playoff game.

“It’s pretty much like a state playoff game or a bowl game,” Fosque said. “The stands are packed from top to bottom; you have people standing outside the fence along the railroad tracks and along the side of the lake. The crowd atmosphere is one that is very jubilant and it is definitely the biggest crowd that some of these high school athletes will ever play in front of.”

Fosque described a tradition of alumni from both schools getting together the night before and begin the “friendly trash talking,” which will carry over into the next morning.

Neptune leads the series, 48-37-4, and has won seven in a row, with Asbury Park’s last victory coming in 2009, 38-15, at Asbury Park. And Fosque hopes there is no end in sight to this game.

“The game on Thanksgiving is probably one of the only games where not only people that are from Asbury Park, but also everyone coming back for the holiday and being able to attend that game which really kicks off their turkey day and sets the tone for the holiday season,” Fosque said. “This is a tradition that has been going on for years and we hope it will continue to exist for as long as football is being played in these particular two towns.”

Holman agrees, and he is looking forward to experiencing it for the first time on his home field.

“It’s not only something that means a lot to Neptune and Asbury Park, but it’s something that has been going on for a long time,” Holman said. “This is a community event and the kids on both teams always look forward to it. This is one of those games where you can throw out the score, but you’re playing against your neighbor, so it’s really important to our program like it’s important to their program.”

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