Union County players look to leave big mark at Robeson Classic

Tequan Thomas, No. 2, will represent Linden High School in the Paul Robeson Football All-Star Classic at Belleville High School on Tuesday, June 11. The graduating senior will play wide receiver for the East squad.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Last year, players from Union County made a big impact in the Paul Robeson Football All-Star Classic.

For the first time, players from Union County high schools were part of the East roster.

You had Hillside High School’s Caleb Salters starting at quarterback and earning East Offensive MVP honors as he scored his team’s only touchdown in a 13-10 setback to the West.

East defensive lineman Tim McKeever of Summit High School recovered a fumble on the first East punt, giving the East possession at the West 33-yard line.

Those are just two examples of key plays Union County players produced to aid the East in its quest to come out on top against the West.

The 30th annual Paul Robeson Football All-Star Classic East vs. West is set to kick off Tuesday, June 11, at 7 p.m., at Belleville High School’s Doc Ellis Field/Municipal Stadium. This is the second time the game is being played at Belleville after being contested for a long time at East Orange High School’s field.

The East consists of senior players from Essex, Hudson and Union counties and the West consists of senior players from Morris, Sussex and Passaic counties.

Union County players on the East Roster include Kendall Griffin and Yasir Wyatt from Plainfield High School; Nazir Baker from Abraham Clark High School in Roselle; Matt Botvinis from New Providence High School; Kendrell Gordon Jr., Yani Cajuste and Leo Harris from Hillside High School; Tequan Thomas from Linden High School; Josue Bilaro from Elizabeth High School–Frank J. Cicarell Academy; and
Matthew Kelly and Leo Haselmann from Summit High School.

Griffin and Wyatt helped lead Plainfield to a 6-5 winning season and a berth in the North, Group 5 playoffs. Baker played on a Roselle team that bounced back from an 0-4 start to win its next four games before finishing 4-6.

Botvinis helped lead New Providence to a 4-3 start before the Pioneers also finished 4-6. Bilaro played on an Elizabeth team that went only 3-8, but won its last two games, beating Eastside High School in Paterson and Hackensack High School.

Linden, sparked by Thomas at quarterback, qualified for the playoffs out of North, Group 4, while Kelley helped lead Summit to the North 2, Group 3 semifinals.

East roster players from Union County

Kendall Griffin, Plainfield, (5-10, 175), DB
Yasir Wyatt, Plainfield, (5-8, 155), WR
Nazir Baker, Roselle, (6-5, 170), WR
Matt Botvinis, New Providence, (5-10, 170), DB
Kendrell Gordon Jr., Hillside, (5-7, 150), RB
Tequan Thomas, Linden, (5-11, 165), WR
Yani Cajuste, Hillside, (6-2, 250), DL
Josue Bilaro, Elizabeth, (5-10, 245), OL
Matthew Kelly, Summit, (6-0, 295), DL
Leo Harris, Hillside, (6-1, 250), OL
Leo Haselmann, Summit, (6-4, 235), OL

Photo by JR Parachini