Sports

Verona-Cedar Grove: The Rivalry

9de0ec8fc1433f53b34f_FotorCreated.jpg
1306353bf0fdf7dd46d6_deangelo1stbase.jpg
Cedar Grove and Verona met up at Yogi Berra Stadium on May 5 with the Panthers winning 10-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
62a7a7eb49b286d94a12_verona2ndbase.jpg
Cedar Grove and Verona met up at Yogi Berra Stadium on May 5 with the Panthers winning 10-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
472204f4f549643d2f02_DSC_0030.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove boys soccer met up on Sept. 17 with Verona coming out on top 3-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
d31d5f46fd7b12274264_DSC_0015.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove boys soccer met up on Sept. 17 with Verona coming out on top 3-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
e48f393931725af56f22_DSC_1046.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove boys soccer met up on Sept. 17 with Verona coming out on top 3-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
435bb1450d9a5625bdf6_DSC_0771.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove girls soccer met up on Oct. 20 with Verona winning 4-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
9ca0a4bc79050d554ebe_DSC_0792.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove girls soccer met up on Oct. 20 with Verona winning 4-0. Credits: Jeanne Moreno
d7d68d979f439a9e9ea4_best_34b2ca815eb6f9f3f8ba_P1730051.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove JV Football met on Sept. 21 in a tight match that ended with Verona winning 20-14. Credits: Chuck Lavery
879758106ad456f6286a_best_16244f9a5fd5a1e95feb_P1730059.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove JV Football met on Sept. 21 in a tight match that ended with Verona winning 20-14. Credits: Chuck Lavery
54003b2b050dfd9ee12a_best_d9cda6095672d856bb14_P1730152.JPG
Verona and Cedar Grove JV Football met on Sept. 21 in a tight match that ended with Verona winning 20-14. Credits: Chuck Lavery
9de0ec8fc1433f53b34f_FotorCreated.jpg

VERONA/CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Rivalries. They turn good moments into classics, bad games into must-watch affairs, friends into enemies and represent the ultimate in bragging rights. Historic rivalries such as the Yankees-Red Sox, Ohio State-Michigan and Duke-North Carolina have a lot of tradition and history behind them.

But what do all of those rivalries have in common?  The answer is proximity. The Yankees and Red Sox are the two most popular baseball franchises in the northeast, Ohio State and Michigan are a state border away and Duke and North Carolina are just eight miles apart. 

Verona and Cedar Grove can relate. While this rivalry may not be on the same scale as professional athletics teams, these two towns not only share a closeness in geography but both communities teams’ are supported by a passionate fan base that often turns the game into more of an event. When these two towns face each other in any sport, the players know they are facing their neighbors, and things can get a little heated when you’re fighting for bragging rights. 

Sign Up for E-News

“There’s a mutual respect and these kids know each other,” noted Verona Boys Soccer Head Coach Wayne Looney. “When you put them on the same field, there is a little bit of over-competitiveness because of the rivalry.”

The rivalry between the townships dates back to the 1970s with many highlights coming from the football field. From the late 1980s until 2008, Verona and Cedar Grove battled it out on Thanksgiving at the end of every football season.

“It was a morning thing that people came out to and had marked on their schedule,” added Cedar Grove Athletics Director Robert Gogerty.

In the past, Cedar Grove fans used to take traditions to the extreme to prep for the big Thanksgiving game.

“We used to have a bonfire the night before the game and burn a Verona dummy,” said Cedar Grove alumnus Rich Williams.

Over the past few years, the baseball rivalry has also grown into one of the  more intense match ups, starting a yearly tradition of playing at Yogi Berra Stadium on the campus of Montclair State University.

“It brings the students and community out for not just that plain 4 o’clock game at Verona or Cedar Grove High School,” said Gogerty. “We play it under the lights at 7 o’clock in Yogi Berra Stadium and get the little league teams involved.”  

Unlike the bigger rivalries where the players come from all over, the Verona and Cedar Grove players know each other, see each other on a day-to-day basis, and in many cases the athletes have grown up with each other.

“We have Cedar Grove soccer players that played in the Verona United Program,” said Looney. “Our kids go over in the summer and play at Panther Park with Cedar Grove players.”

Rivalry games aren’t limited to the athletes.  The entire school gets involved — from the marching band to the cheerleaders to the pep club cheering section. That feeling of community just makes the experience more personal.

“The marching band would go out onto the field, do their routine, and knock it out of the park. The cheers increased pride in the town,” noted Williams, who was in the marching band during his time at Cedar Grove.

Because these student-athletes have grown up with this rivalry, they know what it means to come out on top in the annual games and why the stakes are higher when the Hillbillies and Panthers meet.

“It feels a lot different. It feels like we have to come in and win for our town. It’s Verona, we have to beat them,” said Cedar Grove Boys Soccer player Kevin Johnson.

Rivalry games can give birth to heroes that lead one side to triumph. It is something every kid dreams of and Verona Boys Soccer player Sal Vassallo got to live it with a decisive goal that allowed the Hillbillies to prevail over the Panthers on September 17.

“I love it. Ever since fifth grade I have just loved the rivalry,” noted Vassallo.

“I still remember certain plays and things from those games where if it was probably any other game, I wouldn’t have,” added Gogerty on his time as a Cedar Grove student-athlete.

The next chapter of this rivalry is always being written. It is one that bonds the townspeople of Verona and Cedar Grove, even while they fight for bragging rights.  The excitement of the rivalry extends beyond the high schools to the youth programs and travel teams.  Even when the two towns meet up in the lower levels, there is still excitement and anticipation for those games.

“In a travel game, I noticed that just because it was Verona and Cedar Grove playing, there were more people than just parents,” said Williams. “Everybody showed up.”

Not only does this rivalry bring people together, it boosts town pride, and ramps up school spirit. No matter what the sport is, what the records are, or what the score is, every moment between Verona and Cedar Grove means just a little bit more.

“It’s always a big game for us. No matter how we play, we are always back and forth,” said Cedar Grove Volleyball player Paige Weisel.

The next chapter in the Verona/Cedar Grove rivalry will be written on Saturday as the Hillbillies and the Panthers meet on the football field at Verona High School.  Verona is 8-0 and Cedar Grove is 7-1 and the winner of this match-up not only earns bragging rights, but also the SEC-Colonial conference championship.

“It’s the biggest game on our schedule,” said Cedar Grove quarterback Nick Zecchino. “We circle it as soon as soon as we get the schedule. Now that we’re both very good teams this year, it should add to the rivalry and be a good game.”

“A win would mean a lot,” added Verona quarterback Zack Zaccone. “It would give us bragging rights and we would build from there towards a state championship.”

The towns will battle for the conference championship at Verona High School on Saturday at 2 p.m.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Verona/Cedar Grove

Parsippany septuagenarian becomes NJIT's oldest engineering grad

May 23, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - It was about five minutes after Robert Dresnack’s Water Resources Engineering class had begun when a septuagenarian poked his head into the room at NJIT. Puzzled, the professor inquired, “May I help you?”

In fact, he could. “I’m a student in this class,” replied Chris Antholis, then 72, who was six years into his quest to earn a Bachelor of ...

Cedar Grove Police Blotter

May 21, 2018

May 14, 2018 – May 20, 2018

On May 14, 2018 at 5:57 p.m., Ptl. Michael Passafiume stopped a vehicle without a front license plate and tinted windows. A subsequent investigation led to the arrest of the 36 year old male driver from Paterson for driving with a suspended license. He was processed and released with a summons to appear in municipal court.

On May 15, 2018 at 8:31 a.m., Ptl.

Vehicular Homicide Charges for Driver of Paramus School Bus

May 24, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The driver of a school bus involved in a crash on Route 80 last week that killed two people faces two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide/death by auto, it was announced today.

The driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park, attempted to make an illegal U-Turn on the highway in an attempt to find his way to Waterloo Village, the planned destination of the bus that was ...

Music Under the June Moon Outdoor Concert in Anderson Park

May 28, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Enjoy a magical evening of moonlight and music in Anderson Park in Montclair on Saturday, June 9, with the third annual "Music Under the June Moon" chamber music concert.

Bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy the Chamber Music Society of North Jersey playing under the park's historic Olmsted Oak. This free concert begins at 8 ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...