Tom Curley believes there's something special about the Thanksgiving Day football rivalry between Audubon and Haddon Township.

"Even when both teams are having lean years, you walk out to the field and go, 'Wow, look at all these people,' " Curley said. "There's so much tradition and so much support from both communities.

"It's like the Army-Navy game for those two schools."

Something new will be on the line this year in the 53d renewal of the annual game between the Colonial Conference and neighborhood rivals.

For the first time, the winning team will receive the Curley Cup, named for the highly respected coach who experienced success at both programs.

The plan is for the winning team to keep the trophy for a year, with the hardware on the line every Thanksgiving.

"I amazed that they are doing it," Curley said. "It's a little bit overwhelming."

Curley, 85, coached for 11 seasons at both schools.

He coached Audubon from 1962 to '72 and Haddon Township from 1973 to '83.

He experienced success at both schools, with records of 58-36-4 at Audubon and 56-46-4 at Haddon Township, where his teams made the South Jersey Group 2 finals three years in a row.

The state tournament began in 1974, so Curley's teams at Audubon didn't have the opportunity to play in the postseason.

"I had great experiences at both places," Curley said. "The kids were unbelievable, the administrations and towns so supportive."

Curley spent two seasons as an offensive line coach at Audubon under the late Harry Gamble before taking over the Green Wave program in 1962.

Among his best players at Audubon was future Penn State tight end Bob Rickenbach.

Curley had some terrific teams at Audubon, going 8-1 in 1962, 1968, and 1971 and 7-2 in 1963 and 1967.

At Haddon Township, Curley's teams made the playoffs for the first time in 1977 and reached the South Jersey Group 2 title game in 1979-80-81.

Curley's teams at Haddon Township from 1977 to 1982 went a combined 45-14-2, with four playoff appearances, three finals appearances, and two Colonial Conference titles.

Among Curley's top players at Haddon Township was future Penn athlete Steve Flacco, the father of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Curley was a biology teacher at Audubon. He moved into educational administration at Haddon Township.

Curley still lives in Haddon Township, not far from the Hawks' refurbished field, which will host the first game with the Curley Cup at stake Thursday morning.

"It's just a thrill to know that my name will be remembered with this game," Curley said.

@PhilAnastasia

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