Sunday, November 27, 2011

3 Games, 9 Days

by Jeff Fisher

In my research, Easton, and in some years Phillipsburg (New Jersey), are the only teams in America that play three high school football games in just nine days.

Yes, think about that; 3 in 9!!

First, the reason for the plethora of games in nine days.

It's simple, Easton and their across the Delaware River rival Phillipsburg, play a Thanksgiving Day rivalry game that will NEVER be moved.  Couple that with the fact that Easton's second round district playoff game is played on the Friday before the Turkey Day match-up that annually attracts 14,000 fans to Lafayette College.  

If Easton wins the second round district game, the Red Rovers know they'll be playing for a district championship the following Saturday; two days after playing P'burg on Thanksgiving morning.

So you may think that there's  enough moving parts that Easton wouldn't have to worry about the 3 in 9 equation very much.

Think again!

Last night's Easton played Nazareth, it's third game in nine days for the District 11 championship.  And, yes, second in three.

It was also the third straight year that Easton has played 3 in 9.

One other point, Easton head coach Steve Shiffert NEVER rests his starters against Phillipsburg; the game is too big!

One thing the Rovers have never been able to pull-off the sweep, meaning a perfect 3-0.  Last year, the Rovers were upset 3-0 in overtime in the snow on Thanksgiving Day, but bounced back to beat Whitehall two days later to win the district championship.

Click here to listen to my interview with Coach Shiffert after last year's run of 3 in 9 on the NHSCA Sports Hour.

Last night, Easton, fresh off a Thanksgiving Day win over Phillipsburg, the Rovers were going after a perfect three games in nine days.  A win would give them a third straight district title, plus a berth in next week's Class AAAA state quarterfinals.

At the start, it looked like Easton would finally end the nine day stretch with a trio of wins.

The Red Rover jumped-out to a 14-point lead against Nazareth, but couldn't hold-on.  In the end, Nazareth won its first district crown with a 28-21 win on its home field.

Some say, Easton's quest for a state title will always be hampered by its desire not to move the Thanksgiving Day game.  

Having witnessed Easton's 3 in 9 several times, I'm here to tell you there isn't a bigger feat on the high school gridiron.  What the Easton kids and coaches go through during this stretch is magical.  

Did Easton get its third straight gold Saturday?   No, but, I think they deserve a gold medal for choosing to keep its tradition alive with Phillipsburg over playing only two games in eight or nine days.

I salute you Rover Nation!!  

Congrats on an 11-3 season and upholding the true tradition and spirit of high school athletic competition!

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