Every Thanksgiving since 1897 — with breaks here and there for World Wars — Northeast High and Central High have played a football game. It’s the longest ongoing high-school rivalry in the nation, and no wonder, given the stakes: Northeast, 3,700 students strong, is the city’s biggest public high school; Central, which handpicks 2,200 from all over town, is one of its best. And Northeast’s magnet science program draws from all over Philly, creating Northeast vs. Central dustups citywide, and even in a few homes: The morning after his school’s 34-20 victory over Central in 2002, then-Northeast principal Kelly Barton found the winner’s trophy — a hand-carved wooden horse that this year celebrates its 50th anniversary — sitting on his kitchen counter in Germantown, wrapped in toilet paper. It was his own damn fault: Barton had sent all three of his kids to Central.
Originally published in Philadelphia Magazine, November 2007