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Opinion: How to Win When You Haven’t Even Played the Game

Caldwell Principal on the lead up to the Caldwell vs. Verona annual Thanksgiving football game.

The following letter to the editor was written by James Caldwell High School Principal Kevin Barnes

When does a high school win when they haven’t even played the game? 

On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the steady rain forced the James Caldwell High School football staff to consider whether or where to play their Thanksgiving Day home football game against Verona. Delaying the game to Friday or Saturday was not a consideration, as the possibility of improved field conditions was unlikely.  

The Caldwell football team, with a 9-1 record, could use the additional days to prepare for a state championship game against an undefeated Mountain Lakes squad.  

What to do? 

Considering the possibilities, one thought was to relocate the game to a site with a turf field. While other locations were considered, the closest turf field is found at West Essex High School. 

Those who live in the area might know of the rivalry that exists between James Caldwell High School and West Essex High School. Each school wants to defeat the other in almost any competition you can think of. Each student and alum might admit to taking momentary pleasure upon hearing that the other has lost at almost anything. 

Knowing that the West Essex High School football team had no game scheduled on Thanksgiving, Richard Porfido, James Caldwell High School Director of Athletics, called West Essex Athletic Director Damion Macioci to ask if the West Essex field might be available.  

In short order, Macioci offered James Caldwell athletics the use of the West Essex field, his services and the services of others associated with West Essex. None of the West Essex people woke up on Wednesday morning thinking that they would be “working” a football game on Thanksgiving Day, let alone a James Caldwell High School football game! 

One can only imagine the logistics that ensued over the next few hours.  Communicating with Verona High School, arranging transportation for both football teams, both bands, both cheering squads, ensuring police and first aid squad coverage, letting both sets of fans and parents know, were all tasks undertaken by Porfido; Gary Farishian, Verona High School Director of Athletics; and Glenn Cesa, Verona High School Principal.  

Deepest appreciation to James Heinegg, Caldwell-West Caldwell Superintendent; Barbara Longo, West Essex Superintendent of Schools; Gary Suda, West Essex Principal; and the following West Essex High School personnel: Peter Davis, safety coordinator; Patrick McGlynn, press box coordinator; and John Crocco and Mark Leuze, field personnel, without whose willingness to help the relocation efforts would not be possible.  

Each was at West Essex High School on Thanksgiving Day morning, and their efforts are very deeply appreciated! 

For the record, Caldwell won the annual Thanksgiving Day football game at West Essex High School field, 14-6.  

There is little doubt that Caldwell and West Essex fans will continue to savor every win over the other, and lament every loss to the other, however, on Thanksgiving Day, West Essex High School came out a winner even though they didn’t play the game!  

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