Tomorrow morning, Thursday, November 24, Thanksgiving Day, at Vince Lombardi Field in Old Bridge, New Jersey, "The Battle of Route 18" will be played, the 23rd annual Thanksgiving game, and the 56th game overall, between my Alma Mater, East Brunswick High School, and their arch-rivals,
This is a rivalry between
Before You Go. The temperature is expected to be in the high 40s or low 50s during the game. It will be cloudy, but no rain is predicted.
Same time zone. No passport or change of money required.
Tickets. $5.00 for adults. The stadium seats about 4,000 people. They will not sell out.
Getting There. It's 38 miles from Midtown Manhattan to Carl Sandburg Middle School. (Yes, a middle school. I'll explain shortly. It's not that these guys are too dumb to get out of the 8th grade.
New Jersey Transit does offer bus service, although, being a holiday, they offer less than usual. Bus 139, with a destination sign saying, "Lakewood," leaves from Gate 325, upstairs at the North Wing of Port Authority Bus Terminal. If you take the 9:00 bus, it will drop you off at Throckmorton Lane at 9:46. (Or so they say.) Turn left, cross the overpass over Route 9, and Throckmorton Lane becomes Ticetown Road. Then turn left into the school. You should arrive right before the 10:00 kickoff.
If you're driving, take the New Jersey Turnpike South to Exit 11, to the Garden State Parkway. Take the Parkway South to Exit 123, for U.S. Route 9 South. Take 9 to County Route 516 East. Just past the interchange for 9 & 516, on your right, is the ramp for the school. Be advised that this is a one-way street, and you will not be able to exit this way.
They really don't have enough parking, and you may end up parking next to the gym, a 5-minute walk from the stadium.
Once In the Town. Separated from South Amboy in 1869
For the new name, they chose not any of the localities actually in the town, such as Browntown, Sayre Woods, Cheesequake, Laurence Harbor, or the one that would have been the easiest to use, Madison Park. They chose Old Bridge -- which was an adjoining part of East Brunswick. To this day, the oldest established part of East Brunswick, the southeastern corner, is "The Old Bridge Historic District."
Regardless, if you head south on New Jersey Route 18 from E.B. to O.B., you can see a rusty old sign that says, "Madison Jaycees Welcomes You," possibly the last remaining reminder of the old name.
Like E.B., O.B. experienced massive growth from 1950 to 1970, necessitating the building of Madison Township High School in 1961 and then Cedar Ridge High School in 1968. And yet, when the name of the town was changed in 1975, instead of renaming MTHS "Old Bridge High School," they renamed it "Madison Central High School." True, it was roughly in the town's geographic center, but it was no longer in a town named Madison. Regardless, it was still called "Madison" for short.
Madison/Old Bridge would eventually build middle schools named for polio conqueror Jonas Salk and Carl Sandburg, and elementary schools named for astronauts. Except for Gus Grissom, the "Mercury 7" astronaut killed in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, all of these men, including Salk and Sandburg, were still alive when the schools named for them were opened. (Now, only Gemini 4 and Apollo 9 astronaut James McDivitt is still alive.)
In the early 1990s, enrollment began to go down, so the 2 high schools were reconsolidated into 1. Madison Central had been the Spartans, navy blue and sky blue. Cedar Ridge had been the Cougars, green and gold. In anticipation of the 1994-95 schoolyear, the incoming students -- then freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Madison Central and Cedar Ridge -- chose the mascot Knights and the colors purple and black for the new Old Bridge High School.
At first, though, OBHS had the
Which led to the current status of a high school football team playing its home games at a middle school. There are several schools in New Jersey that do this, because the current middle/junior high school is the old high school, and the new high school was built elsewhere in town. But I know of 3 schools in the State that did it the other way around, building the new high school adjacent to the established stadium: Belleville in Essex County, and Woodbridge and Perth Amboy in Middlesex County.
At any rate, today, Old Bridge is home to about 67,000 people, making it about half again as large as East Brunswick. It's a more conservative town than most of Middlesex County, which generally votes Democratic. They even had a Republican Mayor named George Bush. Before that, he was President of the Township Council, and so there's a plaque in the Municipal Complex with "President George Bush" on it, from before either of the George Bushes you know was President of the United States. Despite this, Democrat Frank Pallone remains the Congressman for the 6th District, which includes Old Bridge.
The ZIP Code is 08857. The Area Code is
Old Bridge is served by New Jersey Transit bus lines 67 and 139, down U.S. Route 9; 138, a rush-hour-only line down N.J. Route 18; and 818, down County Route 516. A 1-zone bus ride is $1.60, and a 2-zone ride is $2.55.
New Jersey Transit bus 139, on the
northbound side of the Old Bridge Park & Ride,
its last stop before going into New York's
Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Going In. The official address of Old Bridge High School is 4209 Route 516, although, oddly enough, the mailing address is Matawan, an adjoining town in Monmouth County.
The odd thing is that Cedar Ridge never had its own football stadium, and played every "home game" in its 25-season history of varsity football at the home of its greatest rival. Perhaps because of this "groundsharing," Vince Lombardi Field was the 2nd football stadium in Middlesex County to have lights, enabling one school to play on Friday night and the other on Saturday afternoon, just in case one school had to postpone a game until the other school's home weekend.
They named the stadium Vince Lombardi Field after the legendary football coach who died in 1970. Although his wife was from Red Bank, and he coached at the now-defunct St. Cecilia's High School in Englewood, he had no connection to Old Bridge. They just wanted to honor the most popular man in the history of the NFL.
The 2013 East Brunswick-Old Bridge game.
Scum Knights won.
The field hosts some of OBHS' soccer and field hockey games, and their track meets. The high school, down Route 516, hosts their gym sports like basketball and wrestling, their baseball and softball games, their tennis matches, and some soccer and field hockey games.
Food. The concession stand is at the south end of the west stand. It's standard high school football game fare. Nothing special like Woodbridge High School's popcorn or the great nachos available at either of the Edison Township schools, Edison and J.P. Stevens. But also nothing particularly bad, like the foul hot dogs at Sayreville.
Team History Displays. There aren't any. You'd have to walk into the actual high school, down the road, and look at the trophies in the cases and the banners in the gym.
East Brunswick went 17-14-2 against Madison Township/Madison Central from 1963 to 1993, and 16-3 against Cedar Ridge from 1969 to 1993. But they're just 3-19 on Thanksgiving Day against the merged Old Bridge High School. If you count Madison and Old Bridge as a single school, Old Bridge leads the series 33-20-2. If you count all games between East Brunswick and schools from Old Bridge, then the series is tied, 36-36-2.
Cedar Ridge beat Madison on a last-minute field goal to complete an undefeated Conference and State Championship season in 1973 -- their only title. That season included their 1st-ever win over EB, after dropping the 1st 4, including the biggest blowout win in EB history, 64-0 in 1969 in only the 5th game CRHS ever played. Cedar Ridge also beat EB in 1975, and that year, the year of the Township's name change from Madison to Old Bridge, was the only season in which both schools beat EB. 1973 and 1975 were also the only years in which Cedar Ridge beat Madison on Thanksgiving. Only 1 other time did Cedar Ridge beat EB, in a rain-soaked game in 1981.
Madison won Central Jersey Group IV Championships in 1987 and 1988, blowing EB out in the Semifinals both times.
Stuff. There is a souvenir stand, but it's not much. No books. No videos.
During the Game. Most likely, your safety will not be an issue. The Old Bridge fans will not attack you.
The Old Bridge Marching Knights
After the Game. If you drove in, you'll have to exit through the back way, regardless of whether you came in through the front or the back entrance. Just follow the directions of the cops, and you won't end up
There are a number of places to eat nearby, but, of course, you'll want to bypass them, because this is
Sidelights. There's not exactly any tourist attractions in Old Bridge. You'll notice that I didn't cross that out. That's because it's not smack talk, it's the truth. It might not, objectively speaking, be a particularly bad place, but neither is it particularly interesting, let alone historic.
There are some famous people from Old Bridge. Singer and actress Colleen "Vitamin C" Fitzpatrick, Clerks actor Brian O'Halloran and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz are all 1987 graduates of Cedar Ridge. Actor Ken Leung is a 1988 graduate of Madison Central. Jodi Lyn O'Keefe of The Vampire Diaries is a 1996 graduate of OBHS. And Laurie Hernandez, who was part of the U.S. women's gymnastics team that won the all-around Gold Medal at the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is an OBHS student.
Then there's the soccer-playing brothers, R.J. Allen of New York City FC and Brandon Allen of the New York Red Bulls. But they went to St. Joseph's High School in Metuchen, not to OBHS.
There are 2 Madison Central High Schools in America today: One is in Kentucky, the other in Mississippi. There are 3 Cedar Ridge High Schools: In Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas. But the combined school is the only one in the country named Old Bridge.
Go, Bears, Go! Go Big Green! Bob Molarz' Green-White Army! Beat the Purple Bastards! Beat The Scum! And remember: You can't spell "slob" without "OB"!
Oh, did I forget to cross that out? No, I did not forget!
UPDATE: Old Bridge won, 35-7. Bastards.