The above definition of “rivalry” paints a good picture for what “The Rivalry Series” is, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Monmouth County is a special place to live. It is a special place to raise a family and it is a special place to grow up in. The small towns that make up this County are unique – each has it’s own history and it’s own character. What makes this area so wonderful is that despite our different community characteristics, we are all together to support each other and to enjoy each other’s company.
In 2002, a group of young boys who were twelve-years-old from Little Silver and Shrewsbury wanted to put their small-town pride to the test in a game of football on ‘Black Friday’ during that Thanksgiving weekend. About a dozen kids from each town showed up to the field that day. It was a hard-fought battle for superiority. These two rivals met again the following ‘Black Friday’ and again the next year, and so on and so on. As these boys grew in age and size, so did this annual tradition. Friends and family started coming to the game each year to watch and as the boys matured in high school, they became friends (for 364 days a year), but ‘Black Friday’ would always remain the one day they could reunite the small-town rivalry in a game of football.
When the boys went off to college, they knew they could look forward to seeing their friends again over Thanksgiving weekend while everyone was home from school. This annual football game each ‘Black Friday’ kept the rivalry going and the friendships strong. There were still no referees, no team jerseys – It was just a pick-up football game. As the crowds on the sidelines continued to grow each year, these now-young men in their twenties at the time, knew they had an opportunity to help others in the community by collecting donations from those that attended and participated. The players decided to partner with Lunch Break in Red Bank which has served the community since 1983 by freely providing life’s basic necessities - food, clothing, and fellowship - to community members in need. Its mission is to alleviate hunger and lead those they serve to self-sufficiency and healthier lifestyles. Lunch Break serves everyone, with compassion and dignity. The participants in this event really appreciated what Lunch Break does for the community.
It was at this time in 2013 when Athletes’ Alley stepped in to support the event with jerseys for each player. The event raised $800 for Lunch Break in 2013 and in 2014 it grew to a $1,020 donation. The organizers pledged a $10,000 amount in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2016, this football game expanded to offer games to men, women, and children from Little Silver and Shrewsbury. The next year in 2017, the event expanded into a tournament for men, women, and children from Little Silver, Shrewsbury, Fair Haven and Rumson. In 2018, the event grew once again to offer games for men, women, and children for four more towns in Monmouth County – Red Bank, Middletown, Oceanport and Monmouth Beach. The Rivalry Series is now an eight-town single-elimination flag football tournament held on ‘Black Friday’ every Thanksgiving weekend that continues to support Lunch Break. In fact, many of the players and their families from this event volunteer the Saturday before Thanksgiving at Lunch Break serving warm meals to those in need while wearing their town jerseys. These hard-fought, flag-flag football games are exciting for all and of course bragging rights are important if you ask the players, but the true winner is Lunch Break and it’s clients.