A South Jersey high school football playoff game interrupted by gunfire Friday night that injured three people will resume Wednesday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles offered their home field as a neutral site for the resumption of the game between Camden and Pleasantville, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Monday. The game will resume at 4 p.m.
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"Thanks to the Eagles’ generosity and community spirit, Pleasantville and Camden student-athletes and their families will have an opportunity to write their own ending to this game,” NJSIAA executive director Larry White said. “They’ll compete on a world-class stage, sending a clear message that violence will not win.”
Camden was leading the game 6-0 in the third quarter when gunshots erupted in the Pleasantville stands.
The NJSIAA said a defined number of free passes would be provided to both schools but that the game would not be open to the public.
Camden senior linebacker Tirek Austin-Cave, a University of Miami recruit, said the team was excited about the opportunity to play in a professional stadium.
"I’m feeling great about it,” Austin-Cave said. "Two great teams going at it at a great setting. There’s nothing like playing some great football at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I just can’t wait to play some great football and represent Camden High.”
Camden coach Dwayne Savage saluted the Eagles for providing a unique venue for a high school game and for allowing spectators, especially family members, to attend.
On Saturday, the NJSIAA had announced that the game would be resumed at a neutral site closed to the public.
“It should be an honor for the kids to play there,” Savage said. “Big shout-out to the Eagles for letting us do this. For us, the great thing is the atmosphere and being able to have some fans there.”
Savage said it was his understanding that each player would be given two or three tickets to distribute among family and friends.
Pleasantville coach Chris Sacco said his team was excited about the opportunity.
“We’re want to thank the Philadelphia Eagles for stepping up and providing these players with a great experience,” Sacco said.
Austin-Cave also expressed gratitude toward the Eagles.
“I really appreciate the Eagles," Austin-Cave said. "They do a lot for the community. I really appreciate them reaching out and telling us we can play in their facility. It’s a great opportunity for us young guys to play in a stadium like that.”
The winner of the Central Jersey Group 2 playoff game will advance to meet Cedar Creek Nov. 30 in the sectional final.
The NJSIAA originally planned to stage the game at Triton High School on Wednesday with no spectators in attendance.
“The NJSIAA would like to thank many of our member schools that offered their assistance, including the Black Horse Pike School District for its willingness to step in and host this game on short notice and under difficult and unusual circumstances,” White said.
Austin-Cave recalled the scene Friday night, when gunfire rang out just after Pleasantville had punted the football away to Camden with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“It didn’t feel real at all," Austin-Cave said before Camden’s practice Monday at Farnham Park in the city’s Parkside section. "I just couldn’t believe something like that would happen at a game. But I’m looking forward to us bouncing back and playing some Camden High football on Wednesday.”
Savage wasn’t sure how his players would respond to taking the field again after such a traumatic event.
“We’re dealing with kids but they’re pretty resilient,” Savage said. "They’re excited to finish the game. The main thing is that first hit has to happen, the first play, so everybody can start forgetting about what happened on Friday night.
"We always say, 'In between the lines, this is where we forget all of our problems.’ But Friday night took that innocence away.”