Eastside High School hoists the Thanksgiving Day trophy with a 24-7 win over Kennedy High School.
The last Thanksgiving Day game at Hinchliffe Stadium occurred in 1996.
Thanksgiving Classic Returns to Hinchliffe Stadium After 27 Years
November 24, 2023
PATERSON, N.J. – While 27 years may feel like an eternity, the passage of time was nonexistent at Hinchliffe Stadium on this Thanksgiving morning in 2023. Earlier in the week, the threat of inclement weather had people wondering if the return of the Eastside/Kennedy game would be impacted by a storm. On this day, the sky revealed a perfect autumn day for the 99th edition of Paterson's Thanksgiving Classic.
Eastside was victorious over Kennedy with a 24-7 win. Regardless of the outcome, Patersonians near and far came out to support the student athletes that would add their names to Hinchliffe Stadium's storied history. While the game may not have had an impact on the standings, it certainly had an impact on everyone in attendance, after all, this was history in the making.
In the first quarter, both teams played a rather tight game as both teams refused to relinquish a score. Twice in the first quarter, Kennedy went for it on fourth down. The Knights were successful on a fourth-and-four play to earn a first down, but Eastside stopped Kennedy's attempt on a fourth-and-one play with five seconds remaining in the first quarter.
As both squads settled in for the second quarter, Eastside scored the first Thanksgiving touchdown in nearly three decades when Ghosts quarterback Nigel Jennings threw a perfect pass to junior Jamar Jeter-Reynolds, the ensuing extra point was no good giving Eastside a 6-0 lead. At 2:57 of the second quarter, Jennings found senior Zaire Belton for the second touchdown of the day. To make up for the earlier missed field goal, the Ghosts lined up for a two-point conversion and successfully crossed the plane to give Eastside a 14-0 lead, and the eventual game winner. For his efforts on the day, Belton was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Undeterred, the Knights quickly mounted a comeback as Kennedy senior Maheen Ajwad made a great catch on an unwieldy pass for a touchdown. The successful extra point shorted the Ghosts lead to 14-7. On defense, the Knights stopped an Eastside drive when safety Jayden Jones intercepted Jennings pass with 2:00 left in the second quarter.
The third quarter saw Eastside's Rayvon Jackson score a touchdown to increase the Ghosts lead to 21-7. At 1:30 of the third quarter, Eastside added more insurance with a field goal for the final score of the day to make it 24-7.
In many ways, the final score of 24-7 is poetic, as it also represents the tenacity of Paterson's student athletes and the coaches that guide them. At the final whistle, there are no losers in this game. Everyone earned a victory as we celebrate the return of a Thanksgiving Classic to where it actually belongs - Hinchliffe Stadium.
With the win, Eastside increases its all-time record in the classic to 47-45-7
Central/Kennedy still owns the all-time record at Hinchliffe Stadium 30-29-7 in 66 games played
Eastside has a five-game winning streak vs. Kennedy (2019-2023)