When discussing Cranford football the past two seasons many people were aware of the accomplishments of lineman Will Fries and quarterback Jack Schetelich.
The 2016 graduates have moved on to the next level, playing in the next state west of us now, with Fries at Penn State and Schetelich at Villanova.
However, a lot more pieces were needed for the Cougars to win 23 of their last 24 games, including the program’s first 12-0 season produced a year ago.
Five of those players that were a big part of Cranford’s success will be representing the Cougars on the gridiron this week. Just-graduated seniors Mike Bellrose (5-10, 240, OL), Sean Leonard (5-9, 170, S), Joe Norton (5-10, 175, PK-P), Lucas Ramadan (6-2, 185, LB) and Ethan Tom (6-0, 230, DL) are members of the Union County All-Stars for Thursday’s myCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXIII, which will kick off for the first time at Woodbridge High School at 7 p.m.
The Middlesex County All-Stars won last year’s game 33-13 at Kean University for their fourth straight victory and ninth in the past 10 years. Middlesex County leads the series 14-8 and is 9-1 in the last 10 games after Union County held a 7-5 advantage following the first 12 contests.
All proceeds from the Snapple Bowl benefit the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, in Edison.
Since its inception in 1994, the game has raised more than $485,000. A single-game record $50,000 was raised last year with the 2015 contest played before an estimated crowd of more than 3,000 spectators.
The first game was played at Union High School’s Cooke Memorial Field on July 21, 1994, with the Middlesex County All-Stars coming out on top 35-14.
The last Union County victory was on July 21, 2011 when it posted a 28-6 triumph at Kean.
Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier, one of the Union County All-Star coaches, and his staff have done a tremendous job turning Cranford into a perennial powerhouse. Cranford is 47-9 the last five seasons – making the state playoffs all five of those years and entering the 2016 season with a 20-game regular season winning streak – while the Cougars have reached three North 2, Group 3 finals since 2011 and won two of them for the program’s first two state championships in the playoff era. Those are also the program’s first three championship game appearances in the playoff era.
Cranford has also won a playoff game in five straight years for another program first.
However, Rosenmeier is now coaching in his third Snapple Bowl and still seeking his first win. Rosenmeier previously coached in the 2008 and 2012 contests when his turn came up in the rotation.
“With these all-stars, things go in quicker than putting them in with your own kids,” said Rosenmeier, who was selected as the 2011 Union County Coach of the Year when he guided the Cougars to a 10-1 record that season and their first N2, G3 state championship. “All of these players have a pretty high acumen.”
For the 2012 game, Rosenmeier handled the offense and Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno the defense. The two switched responsibilities for this year’s contest.
“We’re not here to teach technique,” Rosenmeier said. “We do the Xs and Os, which a lot of them have already done. We try to put things in the right terminology and put the players in the best position to win.”
Rosenemeier’s assistants are also a part of the Union County All-Star coaching staff, including defensive specialist Joe Hubert, Ryan Huber, Kerry Drexler, Chad Faulcon, Brian Antab and Jamie Condrack.
Rosenmeier and DeSarno are back coaching together in the game the first summer after both led their program’s to initial 12-0 records. On a Thursday night in East Rutherford (at MetLife) last December, DeSarno guided Westfield to a thrilling 10-7 win over Bridgewater-Raritan to give the Blue Devils the 2015 North 2, Group 5 state championship and the program’s first state title since Westfield repeated as N2, G4 state champs way back in 1977 – at the old Giants Stadium.
On the next night in Union (at Kean), Rosenmeier’s Cougars rolled to a more-than-convincing 50-23 victory over Chatham in the 2015 North 2, Group 3 final. Both of Cranford’s state championships have come at Kean.
“It’s ironic that after both of us had our first undefeated seasons as coaches that we would be back coaching in this all-star game,” Rosenmeier said. “We played each other the first year Jim was at Westfield in 2006 and also in 2007.”
DeSarno’s first win at Westfield came in its second game in 2006 – a 27-7 victory at Cranford. In the 2007 game at Westfield, Cranford won 17-14.
The teams did not face each other in 2008 and since the formation of the Mid-State Conference in 2009, the teams have not clashed.
Following last year’s success by both teams, many Union County football fans clamored for a matchup between the two. Could Westfield’s dominating defense (county-best 8.58 points against) hold Cranford’s high-scoring offense (county-best 42.91 points for)?
“Jim is a good man who has done a great job with his program,” Rosenmeier said.
Another Union County coach who has gone 12-0 – he was the first one to do so – and was 11-0 again last year before his team lost its final game is Brearley’s Scott Miller, who is annually involved with the production of the Snapple Bowl in addition to coaching in it.
“Scott does a ton of work and just a great job,” Rosenmeier said.
Brearley reached the North 2, Group 1 final last year for the first time since last winning it in 2006, falling to Hoboken 34-12 at Kean. Brearley’s standout quarterback from that squad, Sebastian Montesdeoca, will play behind center for the Union County All-Stars.
Cranford was Union County’s team that was 11-0, but finished 11-1 in 2014 after falling to Parsippany Hills 20-13 in that season’s N2, G3 final at MetLife.
“We went through that two years ago, winning all of our games and then losing the last one,” Rosenmeier said. “It stings and it never goes away. It’s no fun.”
Here’s a look at what Rosenmeier said about Cranford’s five players in the Snapple Bowl:
Mike Bellrose (5-10, 240, OL): “Mike started for the first time as a senior and played like an all-county player. He played well enough to be in this game. He’s a mid-500 pound squatter who waited for his turn to play and took advantage of it.”
Sean Leonard (5-9, 170, S): “Sean has played a lot since his sophomore year, primarily on defense. He started on defense as a junior and then became an offensive weapon. I don’t know if we win the Delaware Valley game (28-21 Cranford triumph last year) without him. He made some tremendous plays for us.
“He was one of a very few two-way starters for us, on the field at all times on offense, defense and special teams. I don’t know of anyone who played more downs for us than him. He and Ryan Bakie played the most minutes. He excelled at safety, running back and receiver.”
Joe Norton (5-10, 175, PK-P): “Joe is just going to kick and punt for us. He worked with our little kids in our (Cranford) camp. I don’t know if I’ve had a better kicker here and we previously had a very good one in Troy Kettler (who was the Union County All-Stars kicker and punter in the 2014 game at Sayreville).
“Joe was also an outstanding wide receiver for us. He is a true Cranford kid, a three-sport athlete that excelled in all three sports. He’s just a winner.”
Norton, who after a standout senior season at catcher will continue playing baseball at Montclair State University, missed a good portion of his senior basketball season after suffering a lacerated liver in the Chatham state championship football game.
“Joe’s a super coordinated kid and I’m glad that he can play in this game.”
As Cranford’s placekicker once again last season, Norton’s only field goal was actually the first three of the Union County-best 515 points the Cougars produced in 2015. His 36-yard field goal in the first quarter of Cranford’s first game at Warren Hills proved quite crucial that night, with the Cougars coming away with a narrow 24-23 triumph.
It was one of only two games Cranford did not win by double digits, the other also coming on the road when the Cougars scored past the midway point of the fourth quarter to snap a tie and win at Delaware Valley 28-21 in a battle of undefeated squads.
Also an accomplished wide receiver with 24 catches for six touchdowns last season, in addition Norton was third on the team in points with 92 – junior Ryan Bakie was second with 98 – and was nearly perfect on his extra point kicks, making 53 of 54.
Lucas Ramadan (6-2, 185, LB): “Lucas started for the first time as a senior at linebacker for us. At our end-of-year dinner when it came time to announce who led our team in tackles for loss it was Ramadan. He also led the team in sacks, blitzing from his linebacker position.
“He did a really great job for us and I couldn’t be happier for him. He went from not playing for us to where Division 3 schools asked about him.”
Ethan Tom (6-0, 230, DL): “Ethan was a two-year starter who never played football before his time here. He did a great job in the weight room and moved to defensive line, where he started for us there the last two years.”
Rosenmeier reported that Tom will continue playing football on the Division 3 level at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.
ANNUAL HOSPITAL TEAM VISITS CONTINUE TO BRING MUCH JOY
TO PATIENTS THERE
What continues to make the Snapple Bowl unique is not only the money it raises and is donated to the two hospitals, but the teams involved visiting those facilities to bring joy to the children there.
There hasn’t been one coach over the years who did not say what a thrill it was for them and their players to spend time with the children the Monday before the game.
“It really is a special day,” Rosenmeier said. “It really brings things into perspective.”
The Union County All-Stars visit the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside and the Middlesex County All-Stars spend time with patients at the Lakeview School in Edison.
“As coaches we worry about first downs and scoring touchdowns, which are important things to us,” Rosenmeier said. “We take health for granted often.
“As much as those kids are happy to see our players, if our players are paying attention they will learn a lot more from visiting those kids.
“It’s a humbling and motivational experience for us. Anything our kids can do to lift their spirit is worth it.”
2016 UNION COUNTY ALL-STARS:
Ed Acccinot, Roselle, (6-0, 210), DL
Mike Bellrose, Cranford, (5-10, 240), OL
Kyle Boyd, Union, (6-1, 195), S
Matt Bruno, Gov. Livingston, (6-2, 220), TE
Ja’quill Burch, Elizabeth, (6-2, 210), QB
Cesar Cordoba, Plainfield, (6-3, 210), TE
Tyler DaCosta, Brearley, (6-4, 260), OL
Russell Davidson, New Providence, (6-4, 250), DL
Matt Englese, Johnson, (6-1, 210), OL
Mike Evans, Dayton, (6-1, 255), OL
Justin Falke, Johnson, (6-2, 245), DL
Will Ferdinando, Roselle Park, (6-2, 195), LB
Noah Goldberg, Dayton, (6-4, 185), WR
Guirvenson Guillaume, Linden, (5-10, 185), RB
Elijah Harrison, Linden, (6-2, 185), CB
Caleb Holden, Union, (5-9, 180), CB
Eugene Johnson, Hillside, (6-4, 300), OL
Manoli Kanellos, Gov. Livingston, (5-10, 180), LB
Torry Langley, Roselle, (6-0, 300), OL
Sean Leonard, Cranford, (5-9, 170), S
Andrew Leibowitz, Dayton, (6-5, 300), OL
Sebastian Montesdeoca, Brearley, (6-0, 175), QB
Tom Morley, Westfield, (6-0, 250), OL
Joe Norton, Cranford, (5-10, 175), PK-P
Osaheni Omokaro, Hillside, (6-1, 190), DL
Chris Ortiz, Union, (5-11, 190), FS
Kyron Paige, Elizabeth, (5-9, 180), WR
Jacquez Payne, Roselle, (6-0, 180), CB
Anthony Primavera, Brearley, (5-10, 180), RB
Shaquille Privott, Plainfield, (6-2, 250), OL
Lucas Ramadan, Cranford, (6-2, 185), LB
Jonathan Ramirez, Summit, (5-11, 265), DL
Anthony Rizzuto, Johnson, (5-9, 165), LB
Brett Robertshaw, Westfield, (5-11, 185), FS
Drew Shannon, Johnson, (6-3, 290), OL
Malik Singleton, Roselle, (5-11, 195), LB
Steven Sottosanti, Gov. Livingston, (5-11, 190), TE
Marquel Taylor, Scotch Plains, (6-2, 180), WR
Nick Tenor, Elizabeth, (5-9, 160), CB
Patrick Thomas, Union, (6-4, 205), WR
Ethan Tom, Cranford, (6-0, 230), DL
Andy Urness, New Providence, (5-10, 170), S
Pernell Williams, Elizabeth, (5-10, 180), LB
Fred Womble, Rahway, (6-2, 180), WR
2016 UNION COUNTY CHEERLEADERS:
Kamryn James, Roselle
Anya Johnson, Roselle
Kayla DeNunzio, Brearley
Samantha Smith, Brearley
Branna Cesaro, Brearley
Shanique Davis, Elizabeth
Al’Shanique Hankins, Elizabeth
Alex Buckley, Governor Livingston
Abby Kepner. Governor Livingston
Jenna Rabasca, Governor Livingston
Aniyah Peterson, Linden
Nicolette Lorusso, Scotch Plains
Alison Mebes, Scotch Plains
Jamiah Sykes-Samuels, Scotch Plains
Tilyana Young, Scotch Plains
Brooke Beckett, Summit
Caroline Mckinlay, Summit
Katie Clark, Westfield
Drew Ferriss, Westfield
Maria Gerckens, Westfield
Samantha Smith, Westfield
Melinda Soto, Scotch Plains
Lucinda Toto, Scotch Plains
2016 MIDDLESEX COUNTY ALL-STARS:
Yousef Abohend, East Brunswick, (6-3, 210), OG
Ben Baez, Edison, (5-9, 165), WR
Mohammed Bangura, New Brunswick, (6-3, 215), DE
Adrian Brown, Dunellen, (6-1, 240), DT
Cristian Cardosa, Iselin Kennedy, (6-1, 265), DT
Corey Clark, Sayreville, (5-10, 210), OLB
Ryan Coke, Middlesex, (6-0, 195), RB
Josemar Contreras, New Brunswick, (5-10, 205), LB
Justin Counts, South Plainfield, (6-3, 230), DE
Samad Davila, New Brunswick, (6-1, 205), RB
Mike Diakunczak, Edison, (5-10, 265), OG
Almaliek Fitzpatrick, East Brunswick, (5-10, 175), WR
Tracy Fudge, Woodbridge, (5-10, 170), QB
Robert Gee, Bishop Ahr, (6-2, 210), LB
Rashiek Harvard, J.P. Stevens, (5-9, 170), CB
Nate Lanier, Woodbridge, (5-9, 170), WR
Bashir Lauderdale, Colonia, (5-10, 185), LB)
Jason Lee, South Plainfield, (6-1, 215), RB
Dane Lupton, Bishop Ahr, (6-0, 190), LB
Marcel Mason, Piscataway, (5-7, 160), RB
David McDevitt, Woodbridge, (6-4, 240), OT
James Modica, Woodbridge, (5-11, 165), WR
Christian Napolitano, South Brunswick, (6-1, 250), C
Mario Nigro, South River, (5-10, 190), OLB
Ogemdi Nwadlke, Highland Park, (5-9, 180), SS
Joe Papa, St. Joseph’s, (6-1, 185), FS
Esberth Pereyra, North Brunswick, (5-10, 255), OG
Noah Pointer, Highland Park, (6-1, 175), WR
Anthony Porcaro, Sayreville, (6-4, 260), OT
Andrew Roberts, Iselin Kennedy, (6-2, 180), QB
Chase Santiago, Monroe, (5-10, 175)m WR
Danny Santiago, Perth Amboy, (5-10, 250), C
Tyler Santos, Colonia, (5-9, 170), WR
Derek Schneider, Spotswood, (6-3, 220), DE
Josh Siegenthaler, South Plainfield, (6-1, 195), TE
Jarett Sims, Metuchen, (5-11, 215), LB
Tru Stell, Old Bridge, (6-0, 265), OT
Kaamal Stewart, Piscataway, (5-9, 175), WR
Lee Tamburello, Colonia, (6-0, 185), FS
Joe Trainor, Monroe, (5-7, 195), LB
Allen Uzoma, South Plainfield, (5-10, 185), CB
Lou Vacca, Spotswood, (6-1, 300), OT
Jared Vann, Piscataway, (5-11, 260), DE
Coray Williams, Sayreville, (6-2, 205), CB
Josh Wood, Monroe, (6-2, 180), PK-P
2016 MIDDLESEX COUNTY CHEERLEADERS:
Samantha Juarez, Bishop Ahr
Brianna Kovach, Bishop Ahr
Angelica Vergara, Carteret
Brianna Dowd, Colonia
Jordan Matty, Colonia
Krystal Jones, Dunellen
Nicole Carrera, East Brunswick
Demi Massih, East Brunswick
Nicole Cooper, Edison
Brianna Udoye, Edison
Morgan Lyons, Iselin Kennedy
Marissa Murray, Iselin Kennedy
Brianna Biezewski, J.P. Stevens
Tianna Bradford, J.P. Stevens
Devin Lissy, Middlesex
Kayla Tarsan, Middlesex
Alexandra Heizer, Monroe
Sunny Worden, Monroe
Amanda Farrell, North Brunswick
Megan Illes, North Brunswick
Brianna Cardaci, Old Bridge
Katie Padin, Old Bridge
Jailene Maldonado, Perth Amboy
Leslie Valdez, Perth Amboy
Diamond Cheek, Piscataway
Lisa Calabrese, Sayreville
Victoria DePinto, Sayreville
Jamie Donato, South Plainfield
Jessica Ortiz, South Plainfield
Layanna Colbert, South Riber
Arianna Reid Hill, South River
Emily Baile, Spotswood
Elizabeth Nielsen, Spotswood
Alexa Robel, Spotswood
Sibel Siglam, Spotswood
Olivia Anderson, Woodbridge
Brielle Small, Woodbridge
Colleen Meyers, Spotswood
Jackie Cassidy, Spotswood
UNION COUNTY COACHING RECORDS:
Scott Miller, 14 seasons, all at Brearley:
Winning seasons: 10
.500 seasons: 1
Playoff seasons: 11
Playoff record: 9-10
State championship games: 3
State championships: 1
Miller is also first Union County coach to go 12-0.
Miller is a 1987 Brearley Regional graduate.
Erik Rosenmeier, 11 seasons, all at Cranford:
Winning seasons: 8
.500 seasons: 1
Playoff seasons: 5
Playoff record: 9-3
State championship games: 3
State championships: 2
Rosenmeier is also 6-0 in consolation games.
Rosenmeier is a 1983 Johnson Regional graduate.
Jim DeSarno, 10 seasons at Westfield:
Winning seasons: 9
Playoff seasons: 8
Playoff record: 6-7
State championship games: 1
State championships: 1
DeSarno is also 9-1 vs. Plainfield on Thanksgiving.
DeSarno is a 1987 Pompton Lakes graduate.
He was previously a head coach at Kinnelon,
with a 5-season record of 18-32 from 2001-2005.
UNION COUNTY COACHES WHO HAVE GONE 12-0:
Scott Miller, Brearley, 2006 (N2, G1 champs)
John Liberato, Summit, 2009, 2012 (N2, G2 and N2, G3 champs)
Kevin Kostibos, Summit, 2013 (N2, G3 champs)
Jim DeSarno, Westfield, 2015 (N2, G5 champs)
Erik Rosenmeier, Cranford, 2015 (N2, G3 champs)