Collingswood and Bishop Eustace row against the tide in new Thanksgiving Day rivalry game


Tim Search didn’t need a ticket to a Thanksgiving football game this year.

The Collingswood senior quarterback finally got a chance to play for himself.

Search threw a touchdown pass and saw teammates Isaiah Pepe-Magro and Justin Pilla score twice each as the Panthers won the first battle of the Cooper River, 28-0 over neighboring Bishop Eustace.

“We haven’t played Thanksgiving in a while,” Search said. “As a kid, I always went to the Thanksgiving game, usually in Haddonfield Township. I really wanted to start a tradition here. Collingswood and his trainer (Mike) McKeown are there for that. »

Prior to the formation of the West Jersey Football League, Collingswood traditionally played Colonial Conference rivals Sterling on Thanksgiving. This rivalry transitioned to the regular season in recent years as it better served post-season purposes for both programs.

This decision left a hole in the Thanksgiving calendar.

“I know a lot of people shy away from the Thanksgiving game, but I love Thanksgiving,” McKeown said. “The Thanksgiving games give a lot of programs, which may not always be state championship contenders, something to look for in the end. A great rivalry game does that. Hopefully, because we’re only a river apart, we can keep this tradition going for a long, long time.

Bishop Eustache is part of the Olympic Conference. Because the teams are in different leagues outside of football, there has never been a reason to meet on the pitch. Separated by the Cooper River, the schools are barely two miles apart, door to door.

“It’s something we can hang our hats on,” McKeown said. “I don’t even know if Collingswood has ever played Eustace in a football game. We’re practically within walking distance. We haven’t played a rivalry game this close to us in many years. That’s that’s football.

Collingswood (5-7) took possession of the wooden paddle that will commemorate what both teams hope will become a tradition.

The Panthers held a 7-0 halftime lead, thanks to a 12-yard run from Pepe-Magro. The junior running back added a 10-yard score after halftime. It was then that Pilla took over.

Pilla put the game away with a two-yard catch and fourth down from Search early in the fourth quarter. The elder added an insurance score with a six-yard flurry on the Panthers’ final possession of the season.

“That’s how we wanted to end it,” P{illa said. “I really want to thank my coach for setting me up to be successful. He gave us the opportunity to bring that tradition back to Collinswood and Eustace as well. It’s a good thing I got to play a part important in this victory.

Bishop Eustace finished the season at 5-6, a three-win improvement over last year and one more win than the past three years combined. Crusaders are building something.

“We have a lot of freshmen, but it was fun to play with all of our underclassmen,” Eustache senior captain Jacob Moher said. “We tried to teach them when we could. there has been a lot of progress since the first training until today. Some of them have gone from not even playing to starting. Our freshmen did a hell of a job.

Much of this progress would not have been possible had the teams not had a game on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season ends before Halloween. Some teams have definitely been home for a full month, a month without a team.

“I came to (Eustace) with about 30 friends already,” Mohr said. “It made me a lot less nervous going into high school. When you’re on a team, you’re always practicing, you’re always improving. It’s a place where you belong like family. That’s my home away from home.

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