Mike Zambelli was fortunate to be a Dieruff football player at a time when the Huskies had a Thanksgiving Day game against Allen.
The years were 1969, 1970 and 1971 and while Zambelli doesn't have a good memory of the first one — a 40-6 Canaries win — he fondly recalls the last two. In fact, he scored two touchdowns as a junior in the Huskies' 19-14 win in 1970 and set a school record with five TDs in Dieruff's 45-6 victory in 1971.
So, Zambelli has an appreciation for what Thanksgiving Day football is all about, but on Thursday morning he'll get a new appreciation of Turkey Day's granddaddy of them all locally, the 107th Easton-Phillipsburg game at Lafayette's Fisher Stadium.
Zambelli will be doing the play-by-play on the Service Electric production of the game which will be going live to the entire Lehigh Valley and beyond via TV2 and WFMZ-Channel 69.
"It's a stand alone game," Zambelli said. "No.1, how many games are you going to play in your life that start at 10:30 in the morning? These kids are going to be getting up 5:30 or 6 in the morning and then will have their team breakfast and go on from there."
Because of his busy schedule with the state playoffs going on at the same time, Zambelli said he has never seen a Red Rovers-Stateliners game in person.
"That's why I am excited to be there," he said. "[Analyst] Jim Wills, [sideline reporter] Kristi Fulkerson and everybody is excited. It's going to be a great football game. Both have outstanding records. I'm interested in seeing how Easton responds after the [42-0] loss to Parkland. We know that program. They have proud kids there. I expect them to come out with guns blazing."
Zambelli said that Easton and Phillipsburg are two of those places where tradition still matters and you see second and third-generation players.
"You don't see that a lot of places anymore because this has become such a transient area," Zambelli said.
Because the game is all about tradition and community, the Service Electric production is capturing more than the football game.
"We're covering the powder-puff game, the bonfires, the pep rallies, the Hall of Fame ceremony. … everything that goes with the game all week long thanks to our weeknight Sports Scene show," Zambelli said.
Fulkerson, who has been working at Service Electric for about 11/2 years, is from Towanda, Bradford County where Thanksgiving football is not a big deal.
"We only played backyard football on Thanksgiving; nothing like this," she said.
Fulkerson has learned a lot about it from her husband, Dan Csencsitz, a current Kutztown University football assistant who is from Northampton and played at Central Catholic.
She has learned what this game means to the Easton and Phillipsburg communities.
"I get more and more excited every day because I've gone to so many events surrounding the game," Fulkerson said. "Each day I learn something new and see how big it is. When I get there, I think it may be even bigger than I am expecting. "
Fulkerson will be on the half-hour pregame show that begins at 10 a.m. which will feature many pre-produced segments and then she will be on the P'burg sidelines while Doug Heater roams the Easton sidelines.
Andy Himmelwright, Service Electric TV2's general manager, will oversee the production.
"We've actually done the production for this game for the past 10 years even though we didn't broadcast it ourselves," he said. "I wanted to embrace the community aspect of the game, including uninterrupted, wall-to-wall coverage of the bands at halftime. They're just as much a part of the rivalry as the football teams."
There will be three re-airings of the game, including one on Thursday night, for those fans who attend the game. Obviously, a lot of people will be in attendance since the game is a sellout.