EAST ORANGE, NJ – Thanksgiving Eve marks the beginning of the annual rivalry weekend for most high schools and communities around the country. Every level in the sport of football prepare for their annual battle with their crosstown rivals with traditions that go back generations. This is especially true for a particularly special group. Their lore is of what local legends are made of.
For East Orange Campus High School and Barringer High School, the Old Guard of East Orange and the Royal Blue Bear Old Guard were celebrating the 107th installment of the oldest high school football rivalry in the state of New Jersey and possibly the nation. These former players and cheerleaders all provided many upcoming student-athletes the possibility to meet their past. “East Orange is family, we looked out for each other,” said Steven Shaw, who is the newly-elected President of the Old Guard. Shaw credited the City of East Orange and the former East Orange High School for making him who he is and that transitioned into his kids.
The East Orange-Barringer rivalry dates back to 1897 where both schools share a combined 14 state championships spanning 71 years, with East Orange owning an estimated eight state championships during this time. Both schools felt it necessary to keep it going for their respective legacies, all the while celebrating the kids and the Old Guard. John Webb and Clarence Turner were the MC’s for the night as they kept the crowd entertained and enthused while honoring Mr. Robert Cunningham of the classes of 1946-48 and Judge Theodore N. Stephens who is the current Essex County Surrogate. Outgoing East Orange Mayor Lester E. Taylor III was also on hand as he drove home the message of values to embody family through urban excellence, which Mayor-elect Ted Greene also agreed.
Both current head coaches, Rae Oliver of East Orange Campus and Ron L. London of Barringer, were extremely proud of their squads. London announced the success of the acceptance of 11 out of his 12 seniors into college. Oliver spoke of the process and the experience to the team coming together as a family after he accepted the head coaching position at EOCHS in April. He too is looking forward to announcing his first class of seniors going off to college.
The evening was highlighted by the induction of East Orange former Councilwoman and East Orange High School’s former Head Cheerleaders Coach Yvonne Blake into the Old Guard. Mrs. Blake was credited in changing the way all cheerleaders cheer at all games and competitions. She said “it is our duty to push as well as teach the younger generations about their history by setting standards so they can be emotionally ready to come your way, and when they do, we will have their backs.” Along with Blake, Mr. Matthew Rivers, Jr. was also inducted into the Old Guard as a member of the 1968 East Orange High School state championship team as well as the Royal Blue Bear Old Guard for his 40 years of service as an educator where 36 of those years he coached and took Barringer to its first-ever basketball state championship and winning it all in 1980.
The evening was also spotlighted by Newark’s North Ward Councilman-at-large Luis A. Quintana and former Essex County Freeholder President Carol Clark, who both stressed the point of tradition and history within the up-and-coming seniors who were in attendance before their big game on Thanksgiving. They were on hand to witness the induction of the East Orange High School Panthers ‘ 1963, 1967-68 Championship teams and the 1975 and 1976 winning seasons, as well as celebrate the 10th anniversary of East Orange Campus’ 2007 state title win over rival Montclair at Giants Stadium.
For the closing remarks, it was left to the new Superintendent of Schools at East Orange Board of Education, Dr. Kevin West, who is also a Barringer graduate as well as a former player of the Blue Bears. He summed it all up by simply stating, “It’s all about the kids. It doesn’t matter what side we sit on in the stadium, or what team you play or root for. At the end of the day you want them to continue to build character.“
The next day East Orange went on to defeat Barringer 21-0 increasing their total all-time series lead to 58-39-9.