Union football preview – Farmers have true meaning of brand new cast

UNION – It will be a “baptism by fire” of sorts for the Farmers this season.

Losing 21 of 22 starters from last year’s sectional final squad indicates that.

“We’ve got a lot of good kids out who are good players,” second-year head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. said. “They now have to learn what it takes to win at this level.”

Taking over at quarterback is junior Tahweid Easterling, who did not play last year. He played wide receiver and defensive back on the freshman team two years ago.

“He’s real athletic,” Grasso said. “He came back out this year, learned a lot and is a good kid to be around. His teammates voted him captain.

“He gives us a lot of options on offense. We saw him throw the ball and he’s really taken to the position.”

Maurice Francis, who had some carries in varsity competition last year, is the lead running back.

“He was our counter guy last year, he ran reverses,” Grasso said. “He’s real athletic and a fast kid.”

Francis played behind graduated seniors Jamauri Bogan and Jabree Robertson.

“He could have started anywhere else last year,” Grasso said. “He’s worked hard, has become a leader and put on some weight. He’s run real hard in our scrimmages.”

One of many targets Easterling will be seeking to throw to is senior Justice Stewart, who saw some time on the varsity a year ago. He is the son of 1986 Union graduate and former all-state player Tony Stewart.

“Justice came into his own last year and now has more confidence,” Grasso said. “He was in some of our 4-wide sets last year.

“He’s played real well for us and has shown real consistency. He had a big summer, got stronger and did very well in our 7-on-7s. He’s really taken over at the wide receiver position.”

Leading the defense in pre-season has been senior outside linebacker Roldy Lucien.

“He’s been a standout,” Grasso said. “He was probably our best special teams player last year. He also played linebacker at all four spots when guys were injured.

“He’s the vocal leader of our defense.”

Emerging sophomore Mike Tverdov, whose brother Peter starred for the Farmers before going on to play at Rutgers, is on the line at one of the end positions.

“We’re hoping he will be a big player for us in the future,” Grasso said.

Union’s only returning starter is senior end Mike Seraquaize.

“Mike’s a real big, strong guy, very solid and always holds his gap,” Grasso said. “He’s always where he’s supposed to be.

“He understands what it takes. He played in every big game we had last year at defensive end.”

Union opens at Phillipsburg Sept. 12 at 7 p.m., with the Farmers facing the Stateliners for the third straight season in Mid-State 38 Conference-Delaware Division play.

Union won at Phillipsburg 24-21 two years ago, while Phillipsburg won at Union 24-14 last year in the first-ever meeting at Union’s Cooke Memorial Field.

The teams have faced each other four times, with Phillipsburg holding a 3-1 edge, including two playoff wins.

Phillipsburg captured the Delaware Division crown for the first time last year and then won North 2, Group 4 for the fourth time in the playoff era and first time since 2009.

Seniors Anthony Guarino, at quarterback, and Joe Maso, at running back, are two explosive players Union must contain.

“It’s a daunting task,” Grasso said. “They have a great program. We had a great game with them last year.”

Phillipsburg, with its first season of football being 1905, leads New Jersey in wins with 650. Union, which began in 1922, has amassed 505.

“They will be tough, they will play hard and they’re well-coached,” Grasso said. “We have to match up to their standard.

“It will be us against the world.”

For the first time in – what will need to be looked up – a long time, Union does not play Westfield. Both teams are still in the same division – the Delaware Division – and are still situated in the same section – North 2, Group 5 – this season.

“How can Union not play Westfield, that’s crazy,” Grasso said.

What’s also interesting is that Elizabeth is Union’s only Union County opponent before the state playoffs. Linden is the only other, that game scheduled to be played on Thanksgiving Day.

“Whatever, it is what it is,” Grasso said.

 

UNION’S MULTIPLE OFFENSE:

T Charles James, junior, (6-4, 263)

G Shaheed Cooke, junior, (6-2, 255)

C Dante Freeman, junior, (5-9, 255)

G Jequan Diggs, junior, (6-1, 290)

T David Brown, junior, (6-4, 268)

T Sam Ceus, senior, (6-2, 245)

TE Mike Tverdov, sophomore, (6-3, 210)

TE Fred St. Ange, senior, (6-2, 195)

WR Justice Stewart, senior, (6-2, 175)

WR Caleb Holden, junior, (5-9, 170)

WR Patrick Thomas, junior, (6-4, 190)

WR Justin Beckett, sophomore, (5-8, 160)

RB Maurice Francis, senior, (5-9, 195)

RB Zaire Adams, senior, (5-6, 165)

FB Roldy Lucien, senior, (5-11, 195)

QB Tahweid Easterling, junior, (5-11, 190)

PK Justin Beckett, sophomore, (5-8, 160)

Returning starters: None.

 

UNION’S 4-4 DEFENSE:

E Mike Tverdov, sophomore, (6-3, 210)

E Mike Seraquaize, senior, (6-1, 265)

T Jequan Diggs, junior, (6-1, 290)

T David Brown, junior, (6-4, 268)

OLB Roldy Lucien, senior, (5-11, 195)

OLB Steve Nebedum, senior, (5-11, 205)

OLB Chris Bournes, sophomore, (5-11, 185)

ILB John Jones, senior, (6-2, 205)

ILB Claude Medelus, senior, (6-0, 225)

ILB Fred Cajuste, senior, (5-10, 210)

CB Caleb Holden, junior, (5-9, 170)

CB Justin Beckett, sophomore, (5-8, 160)

CB Kyle Boyd, junior, (6-1, 185)

S Al-Quan Ryanes, senior, (5-10, 175)

S Chris Ortiz, junior, (5-11, 170)

P Talib Salaam, senior, (5-10, 180)

Returning starter (1): Seraquaize.

 

UNION FARMERS

Head Coach: Lou Grasso Jr., since 2013.

A 1993 Colonia graduate.

Second season: 8-4 (.667)

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Delaware

Section: North 2, Group 5

Union’s last sectional title: 1993

2013: (8-4 and 5-2, second in Delaware Division)

Cooke Memorial Field: Field Turf.

Grasso guided Union last year to its first state championship

game in 10 years, leading the Farmers to their first appearance

in the Noth 2, Group 5 final. Grasso was previously an

assistant coach at Union before becoming the head coach

at Roselle, where he was also previously an assistant.

Grasso was the head coach at Roselle for three seasons in

2010 (7-3, playoffs), 2011 (6-4, playoffs) and 2012 (2-8).

 

UNION FOOTBALL 2014

Sept. 12 at Phillipsburg, 7 p.m.

Sept 19 at Franklin, 7 p.m.

Sept. 26 Bridgewater-Raritan, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 Elizabeth, 7 p.m.

Oct. 10 at Hunterdon Central, 7 p.m.

Oct. 17 at Hillsborough, 7 p.m.

Oct. 24 Watchung Hills, 7 p.m.

Oct. 31 Ridge, 7 p.m.

Nov. 27 Linden, 10:30 a.m.

Head coach: Lou Grasso, Jr.,

second season

 

2013 FARMERS (8-4)

(A) B-Raritan 27, Union 13

(H) Union 33, Elizabeth 14

(H) Phillipsburg 24, Union 14

(A) Union 25, Westfield 14

(A) Union 35, Hillsborough 28

(H) Union 42, Franklin 0

(A) Union 32, Plainfield 6

(H) Union 16, Hunterdon Central 14

(H) Union 28, Watchung Hills 0

(H) Union 47, Piscataway 24

(A) Linden 27, Union 8

(N) Ridge 48, Union 13

Head coach: Lou Grasso, Jr.,

first season

Section: North 2, Group 5

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division:Delaware 5-2, second

Record: 8-4

Home: 5-1

Away: 3-2

Neutral: 0-1

Points for: 306

Points against: 226

Shutouts: 2

Overtime: 0-0

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