Union County football had a banner season in 2015.
For the first time the county produced three 11-0 teams playing in state championship games.
Then – also for the first time – the county produced two 12-0 state championship teams in the same season.
Kevin Doran of Cranford and Jack Curry of Westfield only experienced winning during the 2015 football season, including state championship victories realized on back-to-back December evenings.
Evan Collier, after three years at Metuchen, came back home to Kenilworth and helped the Brearley Bears reach the North 2, Group 1 state championship game for the first time in nine years.
Linden’s Samad Starling was one of only two returning starters for the Tigers last fall after experiencing what it was like to play on a state championship squad his junior season.
Roselle’s Rashaad Pendleton and Union’s Charles James and David Brown played on teams that reached the sectional semifinals during the course of their careers, Pendleton as a junior for the Rams and James as a senior for the Farmers.
Edriece Patterson started every single game he played for Rahway, a starter for the Indians all four seasons he played. Patterson also played on a team that reached the sectional semis, his sophomore campaign.
The seven above standouts will represent Union County football very proudly when the 38th annual Phil Simms New Jersey North-South All-Star Football Classic is contested June 27 at 7 p.m. at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union.
Doran and Curry played on the first 12-0 teams ever produced by Cranford and Westfield, with Cranford capturing the North 2, Group 3 state championship for the second time and first time since 2011 and Westfield winning North 2, Group 5 for the first time, which was the program’s first state championship – and only third in the playoff era – since the Blue Devils repeated as North 2, Group 4 champions way back in the high-up-to-your-kneecap white sox playing era days of 1977.
The South leads the series 18-16-2, with the 2002 game not being played on account of inclement weather (rain, thunder and lightning) just prior to kickoff.
The South has won the last two games, including 23-21 at Kean last year and 20-14 at Piscataway High School two years ago when Kean’s field was being renovated.
The North has never led in the series, but has a talented group of players this year that is seeking to pull the North to within one victory of tying the series once again.
Doran and James are big offensive linemen and Patterson a big and quick lineman on defense.
When it comes to jumping up and catching a pass against single or double coverage, nobody does it better than wide receivers Collier and Pendleton.
Starling is as strong a cover safety as there is in New Jersey, while Curry rushed for over 1,700 yards in 2015, breaking 1978 grad Butch Woolfolk’s single season Westfield mark.
Woolfolk’s previous record was in an 11-0 season.
Curry, who will continue playing in college at Gettysburg, was also valiant in Westfield’s 10-7 N2, G5 championship game victory over Bridgewater-Raritan at MetLife Stadium when an ankle injury right before halftime limited the star running back to just one carry in the second half.
Doran will continue playing at Marist College, Collier at Assumption College, James at Monmouth University and Brown at American International in Springfield, Mass.
Doran placed third in Region 3 wrestling at heavyweight and was one of eight Cranford wrestlers that advanced to the season-ending NJSIAA Tournament in Atlantic City.
Brown was the Region 3 heavyweight champion for the first time this past winter and then placed eighth in the state at heavyweight to become Union’s first NJSIAA Tournament medal winner in 20 years.
Patterson will continue at Army and was the first student-athlete from Rahway High to be appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
NOTES: Cranford’s other special two-way lineman, Penn State-bound Will Fries, was selected to play in the 5th Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, which took place Jan. 3 in Carson, Calif.
Five Cranford players were selected to play in the July 21 Snapple Bowl at Woodbridge.
UNION COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS
ON NORTH ROSTER FOR
ALL-STAR FOOTBALL GAME:
7-Samad Starling, Linden, (6-1, 175), DB
– Coach Al Chiola
15-Evan Collier, Brearley, (6-2, 185), WR
– Coach Scott Miller
17-Rashaad Pendleton, Roselle, (6-2, 190), WR
– Coach James Williams
25-Jack Curry, Westfield, (5-9, 180), RB
– Coach Jim DeSarno
50-Charles James, Union, (6-5, 270), OL
– Coach Lou Grasso, Jr.
75-Kevin Doran, Cranford, (6-3, 275), OL
– Coach Erik Rosenmeier
94-Edriece Patterson, Rahway, (6-3, 250), DL
– Coach Brian Russo
74-David Brown, Union, (6-4, 280), OL
Coach Lou Grasso, Jr.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS
THE PAST 2 SEASONS:
Westfield – North 2, Group 5 – first time
Cranford – North 2, Group 3 – second time
Linden – North 2, Group 5 – first time