If you’re outside of Hunterdon County, two highschools fighting over a painted can of milk may sound absurd, but to us, it is the biggest tradition in sports. In 1975, the first battle between Voorhees High School and North Hunterdon Highschool occurred, battling over a golden milk can as tribute to Hunterdon’s rich farming heritage. If you’re wondering who could’ve possibly made the milk can golden, it gets even odder. Sports writer Gene Robbins and local barber Tony DiPietro painted a donated milk can from Emma Milligan from Union Township with 18 karat gold paint. While the game started as a rivalry between two nearby schools, it has turned into one of the biggest games of the year, not only for players, but the fans as well.
Leading up to the game every year, both schools do a spirit week and a pep rally for the big game. At both schools, they have days like anything but a backpack day, a celebrity day where students dress up as famous people, and a pep rally with multiple competitions between the students. On top of both schools showing spirit, social media has been a huge part as well, having multiple memes and story posts by students from both schools. While North has been quite dominant in the last decade of games, going 10-0 in the last ten meetings, Voorhees still comes out every year louder than the last. Another big tradition is the field rush by the winning school, no matter what field they are at. In recent years it has become an issue, but after both teams exit the field, the student section of the winning team gets to rush the field and celebrate with their team.
Instead of just the history and statistics about the game, I got the pleasure to interview multiple people involved with the rich history of the milk can game this week. North Hunterdon standout wide receiver Derek Vaddis had this to say about the rivalry game this friday.
You’ve had a stellar season, and like every other north season, the final and ninth game is the historic milk can game. How important is the milkcan game to you?
”The milk can game really is important every year and it has a different meaning to everyone. For me I just like to go out there and prove the point to them that this isn’t a rivalry, north clearly is the better team but its a game that we have to go get up on them quickly and put them to bed early so we can go storming into the playoffs”
Voorhees fans have gone through a lot in this rivalry, the seniors today were seven years old the last time the Vikings won, and one senior Sofia D’Amelio had this to say about the game:
“Since I was a freshman at Voorhees High school, it has never been about winning. The simple fact is, north is bigger than voo; more to pick from means more skill. I really enjoy the spirit week we do at VHS leading up to the game! The whole week is a competition between the graduation years where we compete for points. Points are awarded to grades to bring in the most food in our food drive, win penny wars, and decorate our respective areas based on the theme for that year. It’s not about winning, it’s about school spirit. I love my high school regardless of a football game!”
With a perspective from both schools, I got the chance to ask a student from neither North or Voorhees, Gemma Ossi, for their perspective of the game as an outsider.
You didn’t attend North Hunterdon or Voorhees, so what was this game like for someone from neither school?
“My experience at the milk can game was electric. One of a kind and hands down the best football game of my life so far. On the night of the game it was freezing and pouring rain, both of which sound like negative factors, but in reality they only added to the experience. Since I was not from either school I didn’t know many people but the energy was amazing and I fit right in with the students of north hunterdon. The team spirit of the players on the field was unmatched and the student section was packed. Between the excessive amounts of flour and glitter being thrown, to people chanting and crowd surfing it was easily the most fun I had had in a while.”
One experience most wouldn’t think of is the cheerleaders in the game. Erinn VanAuken of North Hunterdon’s cheer team had this to say on her experience of cheering at the game.
How different is the crowd for a milk can game compared to a regular season game?
“With the huge rivalry between the schools, everybody gets more pumped and they include everybody from freshman-seniors. The game is always so much fun whether it’s freezing, pouring, in the jungle or on track. After 47 years of this tradition, this could be our 11th consecutive winning and that makes the excitement much more!”
Tonight’s game is the 47th meeting between the North Hunterdon Lions and the Voorhees Vikings, and like every year, it will be a unique battle in a historic tradition. If you have the chance, go to the game and experience it first hand, but bring an umbrella unless you want to be covered in flour being thrown from the student section.