It is only 1.6 miles from Phillipsburg, New Jersey, to Easton, Pennsylvania.
And the towns’ respective high school football teams are perennial rivals.
University of Maine senior linebacker Taji Lowe and Towson senior running back Shane Simpson know all about that dynamic. Lowe played for Phillispburg and Simpson competed for Easton.
They will renew their old rivalry Saturday night.
No. 8 Towson Tigers (2-0) vs. No. 7 Maine Black Bears (1-1), 7 p.m. Saturday, Alfond Stadium, Orono: This is the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both teams, and the fourth or fifth time Lowe and Simpson have squared off.
“He won the first two years in high school, and I won my senior year. But that’s the one that matters,” Lowe said.
They met again a year ago for their only time in college with UMaine emerging with a 35-28 triumph.
“It’s going to be a very exciting game. I can’t wait to play,” Lowe said. “Shane Simpson and I have a personal rivalry.
Simpson is a two-time All-American and All-CAA selection who was second among 124 Football Championship Subdivision schools last season in all-purpose yards per game (171.5).
Last year, he racked up 211 yards against UMaine with 45 yards on 13 carries, seven receptions for 69 yards, three kickoff returns for 87 yards and one punt return for 10 yards.
Lowe made six tackles against the Tigers.
This is the first time in UMaine’s 127-year football history that two top-10 teams will play in Orono. The Black Bears have won six straight at home.
Towson features All-America quarterback Tom Flacco, the 2018 CAA Offensive Player of the Year. The brother of Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 3,251 yards and 28 touchdowns and ran for 742 yards.
“His ability to throw the football is underestimated, and he makes a lot of plays with his feet,” UMaine coach Nick Charlton said. “We have to do a good job in coverage and stay in our rush lanes.”
Flacco has already completed passes to 12 different receivers this season.
“If he does break out, we’ve got to buckle down and get ready for the next play,” Lowe said.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose has tremendous respect for UMaine.
“They’re one of the best teams I’ve seen on video in a long time. They’re extremely talented. They’ve taken a very good defense and made it better, and taken a good offense and made it explosive.”
Ambrose said the Tigers must limit UMaine’s big plays and avoid turnovers.
UMaine quarterback Chris Ferguson is fifth in the FCS in passing yards (709) and sixth in yards per game (354.5). Charlton is looking for a more explosive running game as UMaine is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
Towson has allowed a league-low 12 ppg behind linebacker Robert Heyward (20 tackles) and safety Steven Brown (15). Safety Joshua Huffman (13 tackles) and linebacker Jaron Grayer (12) lead UMaine’s defense.
Grayer was injured in the 26-18 loss to Georgia Southern, and his status is up in the air.