Pearl River player's death to change tone of Saturday's Little Brown Jug rivalry
PEARL RIVER — The Little Brown Jug will still go to the winner, but the tone of the Saturday's latest chapter in the rivalry between the Pearl River Pirates and the Nanuet Golden Knights will be different.
There's been a death in the football family.
Sunday's car crash on Route 304 in Pearl River took the life of Pearl River defensive lineman Altin Nezaj, who wore number 71 for the Pirates.
Also killed in the crash was 15-year-old Brooklyn girl, Saniha Cekic. Cekic's cousin, Pearl River senior Aisha Radoncic, who drove the 2017 Porsche at the time, remains in good condition at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.
Nezaj's number will appear on the back of T-shirts worn by Pearl River fans at Saturday's game, which will kick off at 2:30 p.m. at Nanuet High School. The front of the shirt has the flags for both teams and the words "Brown Jug 2019. Raise the Sails." The back will have a black 71 in a circle of white.
Saturday's game is the 53rd installment of the heated rivalry. Nanuet took home the jug last year, with a 14-6 win at MacCalman Field in Nyack, where the game was played as Pearl River's field was under construction.
Phil Carbone, Nanuet's head football coach, said the significance of Nezaj's death is not lost on his team or the wider community.
"The two communities are very connected, obviously," Carbone said. "We're rivals on the field but brothers and sisters off the field. It's going to be a surreal setting, but right now we're just respecting the process."
Nanuet, as host, will pay tribute, in some way, Carbone said.
"We'll work something out with the coaches. There will be some recognition of the lives lost and the person who's struggling," he said, referring to Radoncic.
"I think anybody — any educator, any coach, any person — that puts themselves in that position of what the family and the community is going through, how can you not have feeling and empathy and concern for everybody around you?"
Watch the 2018 Little Brown Jug wrapup video here.