EAST ORANGE – The return of longtime former head coach Marion Bell to East Orange Campus’s Paul Robeson Stadium was eclipsed with a double-overtime performance by the two long-time rivals in the annual Thanksgiving Day Rivalry Varsity Football Game between Barringer High School and East Orange Campus High School.
The EOCHS Jaguars prevailed, 12-6, to finish the season with a 4-6 record.
The varsity game was fought in the trenches and between the opposite 30-yard lines. EOCHS struck the first blow with quarterback Q’uran Dixon at the helm. Dixon marched his squad 58 yards with a balanced attack and capped the eight-play drive with a 17-yard dart to tight end Najee Howard to go up 6-0 with 6:57 in the opening period.
Barringer safety Kareem Stewart wasn’t going to let Jaguars have all the fun Thursday morning. He showed why his Blue Bears were undefeated prior to their loss to Chatham High School in the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 playoffs. Stewart found himself the recipient of an errant Dixon pass that was intended for wide receiver Naseem White. Stewart, led by his Blue Bears, galloped 65 yards the other way to tie the score 6-6 with 8:29 left in the first half.
The game remained tied throughout the second half, forcing overtime for the first time ever in the series. “Not since 1981 has there ever been a tie between the two schools,” stated an East Orange alumnus “and not ever since the series was restarted again.” EOCHS finally found the tie-breaking touchdown in double overtime. Starting from the 25-yard line, EOCHS found a crease in the Blue Bears’ defense, turning hard-running Giovanni Shine loose to the right side as he led the Jags to the 4-yard line. Shine then found the end zone as he scooted to the outside again for the 4-yard score and the double-overtime 12-6 win.
“Way to go out and end the year,” exclaimed EOCHS head coach Al-Majid Hutchins. “You persevered through everything that was going on and I am proud of you.”
The Jaguars will go into the offseason knowing that their 4-6 record was not reflective of what they put in this year. “We were holding on for our dear life this season as we were not sure if we weren’t getting into the playoffs this year, but we did it,” said Hutchins to his team at the end of the game. “Now for you seniors who are graduating, I want to thank you for staying and showing your leadership. I want to thank you personally and wish you well as you prepare to graduate high school and for the rest of your life. Remember this one thing, you fought through the adversity and changes that had an effect on us as a team. You will need to use that in life.”
Marion Bell, who was the Jaguars head coach from 2004-2014 and is a current assistant coach for the Barringer football team, declined an interview, but was happy to see his former team and current team shake hands and make friends at the end of the game which was on display between the teams during the game. “We have come a long way,” said Barringer athletic director Terrence Brogden. “We were 0-10 three years ago, then 6-4 and now 8-2 is a great progress.” When he was informed that this would have been the 40th anniversary of the 1975 state championship team, Brodgen replied, “That would have been a big thing for us had we won against Chatham last week.”