A traditional Thanksgiving Day high school football rivalry may have gone too far on Tuesday when a dead cat was discovered outside Phillipsburg (N.J.) High School, a grotesque image which police fear was left by students from bitter historic rival Easton (Pa.) High.
As reported by the Warren Reporter and Allentown Morning Call, among other sources, a dead cat was discovered laying outside the front door of Phillipsburg High on Wednesday morning, While the cat was believed to be dead before it was left at the school, Phillipsburg Police Chief James Faulborn told the Reporter that the dead animal was likely a visceral message or prank aimed at the Phillipsburg student body by members of its Easton counterpart before the schools face off in their annual Thanksgiving Day football rivalry game.
The reason for the dead cat? You guessed it: Phillipsburg's mascot is a cap-donning wildcat named Suzy Stateliner.
"It's disturbing," Phillipsburg graduate Erin Stocker of Phillipsburg's told the Allentown Morning Call. "To me, there is a big difference between a concrete statue and a living animal. I think it's just sad that someone would do that and think that's a funny prank for the rivalry."
The dead cat arrived at Phillipsburg just days after Easton's Red Rover bulldog statue was returned to the school damaged after it had allegedly "been abducted" by unknown assailants believed to be Phillipsburg students.
The Phillipsburg Stateliners have more wins than any other program in New Jersey state history, with the program dating back 108 consecutive years. Beyond that, the school's rivalry with Easton is one of the nation's most historic at any level of American sports.
The schools have faced off against each other 106 times, almost exclusively on Thanksgiving Day since 1916. Adding to the rivalry is the overwhelming success both programs have enjoyed in their respective states. While Phillipsburg is New Jersey's most heralded program, Easton has the second most victories in Pennsylvania history.
There have been no early leads on any potential culprits, nor additional verification that residents of Easton were involved in the cat dumping. In the meantime, the 2012 incarnation of the rivalry between the schools promises to be amongst its most heated ever, spurred by genuine and unwanted animosity following a pair of ill-conceived, mean-spirited student pranks.