Even though his team will soon be playing for a second sectional championship in the past three years, Carteret High School football coach Matt Yascko is concerned about his Thanksgiving Day opponent.
Perth Amboy, which snapped a 10-game losing streak earlier this year and has since won three consecutive games, enters Middlesex County’s oldest holiday rivalry looking to post an upset of the Ramblers in the Home News Tribune Game of the Week. Thursday’s kickoff at Albert G. Waters Stadium is 11 a.m.
The Panthers (3-6) will conclude their season, while Carteret (7-3) will face Matawan for the Central Group III title on Dec. 5 at Kean University.
Yascko said Perth Amboy has had better success against him than any other foe.
“It’s that old rivalry thing where you can throw records out the window,” said Yascko, whose 2011 team that opened the year with eight consecutive victories lost to Perth Amboy a week after falling to Matawan in the sectional semifinals.
“For us, right now, this is our championship,” Perth Amboy coach Brad Bishop said. “This is our playoff game. They are going into a state championship game against Matawan. I know they are going to be up for this game. They are not going to overlook us.”
Perth Amboy will wear its all red uniforms, while Carteret will wear its all blue uniforms as Yascko and Bishop look to start a new tradition in the longstanding series, which Perth Amboy leads 45-40-2.
Some of the current Ramblers and Panthers recently competed together in NFL High School Player Development camps, with one combined squad from the schools representing Middlesex County at a national tournament in Cleveland.
Yascko said he believes Perth Amboy’s late-season turnaround can be attributed to the team finding its offensive identity.
“They are running the ball with a lot more conviction,” Yascko said. “I think they spent a lot of the early part of the season finding out who their best players are and putting them in the right spots.”
Yascko said he is most impressed with Perth Amboy’s athleticism in the skill positions and size up front.
“I think they have one of the bigger offensive lines I’ve seen this year,” Yascko said, noting Bishop, a former Perth Amboy star who played against some of the Carteret assistants when they were in high school, is turning around the program.
“I think he’s going to do everything in his power to get that program turned around,” Yascko said. “I think they are headed in the right direction.”
“I feel that our team has come a long way from the beginning of the year,” Bishop said. “Carteret is obviously a very good football team, so for my kids to go out there and play well and just be competitive would be awesome.
“It could be a turning point for us. Coming into the game, there is a lot of history and tradition that the Carteret-Perth Amboy rivalry has to offer. The kids are understanding that now. With a lot of former players (as coaches), we have a lot of insight into what this means, not just to the football program, but to the community.”
An alumni social and breakfast for graduated players, cheerleaders and band members of both high schools will commence 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
For more information about the event, contact Perth Amboy Athletics Director Nephtaly Cardona (732-376-6274) or Carteret Athletics Director Grace Cunha (732-541-8960, Ext. 4059).
“This rivalry and tradition,” Bishop said, “will last a lifetime.”