This is the first in an occasional series following the Keyport High School Red Raiders alumni as they prepare to meet the Keansburg Titans alumni on the gridiron Saturday, June 18, 2016.
KEYPORT — In just less than nine months, there will be a kickoff to a football game like none ever played on the Bayshore.
Keyport and Keansburg high school alumni will meet on the gridiron for a full contact contest on June 18 in what many players are already hoping will become an annual event. But game organizers, brothers Rich and Charlie Perez, are just looking ahead to June — to the first Bayshore Bowl.
“They think they are going to come in and kick our ass,” Charlie Perez said. “This is serious. This is going to be smash mouth football. I need to win.”
On Friday, eleven men, all former Red Raiders hailing from more than a decade’s worth of alumni classes, gathered at Cafe Red across from Keyport High School to discuss the game.
The atmosphere inside the cafe was more like a locker room than a breakfast joint. The men cracked jokes, made plans and talked trash.
Recruiting for the game is being done in earnest. At least 20 people need to register, and that comes with a fee of $100 ($150 if you want to keep your Jersey), and a full roster will be 55.
“You either have to be the best, or referred by the best,” Charie Perez said.
The Perez brothers, whose boyish looks and solid builds, belie their true ages. Are planning practices and workouts. The alumni Raiders will be practicing twice a month, and workouts on a group forum online for those who are living out of state.
And the reason for putting the game so far into the future is so that both teams have time to prepare, get in shape, build chemistry and put on a good show.
“At one point we were at the top of our game,” said Charlie Perez. “We need to get back to that.”
This game has been imagined time and again. As the demarcations of high school allegiances eroded over the years former Keyport and Keansburg players have found themselves on the same college teams or even as co-workers.
Brothers Craig and A.J. Youncofski work with several Titan alumni and the idea of this game is often debated.
“We say if you had your best guys and we had our best guys, who would win,” Craig Youncofski said.
As teenagers, the Red Raiders have held the advantage.
Since Keansburg High School opened in 1968, Keyport has won six state championships and 12 division championships and Keansburg has four state championships and eight division championships, according to statistics collected by Evan Doucette, one of the alumni players.
Keyport’s record against Keansburg is 32-14 and 15-5 during the last 20 years.
Those handful of losses are still a matter of pride.
“I was on the first team to lose to Keansburg is 20 years,” said Greg Kemp. “I was afraid to show my face in Keyport after that.”
But this game is about more than fulfilling fantasy or a chance at redemption this game reaffirms their identity and their place in this town.
“This is Keyport, man. That’s all there is to it,” Doucette said. “I didn’t go to my high school reunion. This is my high school reunion.”
Days until kickoff: 264.