MVP Oblachinski leads Union County All-Stars to come-from-behind Snapple Bowl triumph; Guides winning team to 2 key 4th quarter TD drives

Cranford's Bakie, Roselle's Stephens, Johnson's Fischetti, Rahway's Anderson score UC TDs

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Union County All-Star quarterbacks, from left, Gerald Hairston III of Roselle and Brian Oblachinski of Cranford, both threw touchdown passes in the July 20 Snapple Bowl at Kean University. Oblachinski earned MVP honors in helping lead Union County past Middlesex County 27-14.

UNION – After leading at the half – a longer than usual intermission caused by a lightning delay – and also ahead going into the final 15 minutes, the Union County All-Stars had to sort of re-invent themselves in order to come out on top again.

The Middlesex County All-Stars finally got into the end zone and put up their first points of the game in the third quarter and then scored again in the fourth to take a one-point lead.

Thirteen points, which was how many Union County scored in each of the previous two Snapple Bowls, was not going to get the job done this time.

Then quarterback Brian Oblachinski of Cranford – making the most of his final high school football game – got in a groove. He connected with wide receiver Michael Barletta of New Providence twice and Justin Beckett of Union once, marching Union County right down the field.

Finishing the all-important fourth quarter drive was Nick Fischetti of Johnson, who scored from five yards out to give Union County the lead back and for good with two minutes remaining.

“That was a nice drive, with Oblachinski facing a lot of pressure,” said Union County coach Lou Grasso, Jr. of Union, who called the Union County offense in a Snapple Bowl for the third time.

An interception by Beckett, who also played on defense in the secondary, set up the game’s final score which was a five-yard run this time by Rahway’s Terrence Anderson.

It added up to Union County defeating Middlesex County 27-14 in the MyCentral Snapple Bowl XXIV. The Snapple Bowl was contested for the eighth time at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.

Oblachinski, who will continue playing baseball at Montclair State University, earned MVP honors.

“Oblachinski made a lot of improvisational plays and broke free from the pocket,” Grasso said. “All of our skill guys really played well.”

Game No. 25 will take place next July at a Middlesex County high school field.

Led by former East Brunswick teacher and football coach Marcus Borden, the Snapple Bowl founder and director, the game has raised $600,000 since its inception in 1994.

All proceeds go directly to the Edison-based Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, and the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside.

Union County won for the second straight year and did so for the first time since winning three straight from 2003-2005 to take a then 7-5 lead in the series.

Middlesex County, which won nine of 10 games from 2006-2015, still leads the series at 14-10 and is now 5-3 in the games played at Kean.

Union County scored 27 points for the second time and fell one point short of matching its high of 28, achieved three times.

After scoring at least 30 points in four straight wins from 2012-2015, Middlesex County has now scored only 21 points in the last two Snapple Bowls combined.

Oblachinski, who was a key offensive performer on Cranford’s 2015 North 2, Group 3 state championship team that finished a program-first 12-0, came through big-time again on the stage at Kean. Oblachinski helped spark Cranford to a 50-23 win over Chatham in the 2015 N2, G3 final at Alumni Stadium.

In addition to the fourth quarter touchdown drives, Oblachinski completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to fellow Cranford teammate Ryan Bakie to give Union County a 13-0 lead in the third quarter.

Oblachinski became Cranford’s second Snapple Bowl MVP, joining Chris Drechsel, who at quarterback helped lead Union County to a 21-14 win over Middlesex County to earn MVP honors in the 2005 game played at Kean.

Drechsel is now getting ready for his second season as the head coach at Millburn.

Cranford became the first Union County school to have two MVPs. The only Middlesex County school to have two MVPs is South Brunswick.

Bakie, who played wide receiver for the Union County All-Stars, will continue playing football at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI.

Union County’s other quarterback, Gerald Hairston III of Roselle, completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to fellow Roselle teammate Drew Stephens for the only touchdown of the first half.

Hairston will continue playing at Lincoln University in Chester County, Pa. and Stephens at Virginia Union University.

After Union County went up by two scores, Middlesex County took advantage of a turnover when a short punt bounced off a Union player and into the arms of South Plainfield’s Dillon Harris. South Plainfield teammate DeShai Smith produced a key catch on the ensuing drive that saw Sayreville’s Michael Liberti score Middlesex County’s first points on his teams’ first of two touchdowns.

Middlesex County took its only lead of 14-13 in the fourth quarter when Smith hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Layton of Colonia.

“This is a fun game and a fun time with the kids, although we still want to win,” Grasso said. “A couple of plays here and there and a turnover or two usually decides these games.”

Union County’s defense impressed during the game’s first 30 minutes, holding Middlesex County scoreless in the first half.

“We had a lot of good players on defense and I’m glad they showed on the field what we practiced,” Grasso said. “We had kids from Elizabeth, Union, Westfield and Cranford, for example, who had really good games.”

Union County linebacker Max Michel of Elizabeth produced a sack in the first half that halted a Middlesex County drive.

“They were tough and fast and played well as a group,” Grasso said.

NOTES: Beckett, who helped lead Union to the North 2, Group 5 semifinals the past two seasons, will play this fall at The Hotchkiss School, a prep school located in Lakeville, Ct.

“He will probably see time at slot wide receiver or defensive back,” Grasso said.

Grasso is entering his fifth season as head coach at Union. He has guided the Farmers to the North 2, Group 5 semifinals three times and the N2, G5 final once during his first four years.

Union is seeking its first state championship since 1993.

The Farmers have all four of their scrimmages on the road, including their game-scrimmage at Summit Aug. 31 at 11 a.m. Union was unable to have a game scrimmage last year.

“That’s just the way it worked out, it was coincidental,” Grasso said of Union’s four scrimmages all being away from Cooke Memorial Field.

Union’s first three scrimmages are scheduled at Union City Aug. 15 at 10 a.m., at Phillipsburg Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. and at South Brunswick Aug. 26 at 10 a.m.

Union will then open its 2017 season at Watchung Hills Sept. 8.

The Farmers will not see any game action at home until Sept. 15 in their home-opener vs. Plainfield.

Union didn’t seem too affected by having its game-scrimmage fall through last season. The Farmers got out to a 3-0 start and were 4-1 after their first five games.

“They’re important to get the kinks out,” Grasso said. “Last year I thought we still did a good job without one. Sometimes they’re anticlimactic.”



Series lead: Middlesex 14-10

Home team: 10-14

Road team: 14-10

Most points: Middlesex, 484

Least points: Union, 3583

Shutouts: 1 – Union (2003)

5-game winning streak:

1- Middlesex (2006-2010)

4-game winning streak:

1-Middlesex (2012-2015)

3-game winning streak:

1-Union (2003-2005)



Monroe: Khamisi Jackson, 1994

South Brunswick: Kenny Rogers, 1996

Dunellen: Luke Cianello, 1998

Perth Amboy: Jeff LeSeur, 1999

South River: Zack Earvin, 2002

Sayreville: Herbert Nieves, 2006

New Brunswick: Aireil Adams, 2007

Piscataway: James White, 2008

South Plainfield: Michael Burton, 2009

South Brunswick: Mike Muha, 2010

Woodbridge: Cody Zalasar, 2012

Edison: Abdel Ragab, 2013

St. Joseph’s, Metuchen: Matt Olivo, 2014

Spotswood: Chase Fee, 2015


UNION MVPs (10):

Summit: Jamie Allen, 1995

Rahway: Louis Campbell, 1997

Elizabeth: Billy Gilbert, 2000

Linden: Brandon Bracey, 2001

Johnson: Mike Vicci, 2003

Westfield: Jan Cocozziello, 2004

Cranford: Chris Drechsel, 2005

Roselle: Darius Mayers, 2011

Hillside: Osaheni Omokaro, 2016

Cranford: Brian Oblachinski, 2017




Union: Middlesex is 3-1

Sayreville: tied at 1-1

East Brunswick: tied at 4-4

Kean University: Middlesex is 5-3

South Brunswick: Middlesex is 1-0

Woodbridge: Union is 1-0

In Union County: Middlesex is 8-4

In Middlesex County: tied at 6-6



2017: Union 27, Middlesex 14

MVP – Brian Oblachinski,

Cranford, quarterback

At Kean University

2016: Union 13, Middlesex 7

MVP – Osaheni Okomaro,

Hillside, linebacker

At Woodbridge

2015: Middlesex 33, Union 13

MVP – Chase Fee,

Spotswood, running back

At Kean University

2014: Middlesex 34, Union 20

MVP – Matt Olivo,

St. Joseph’s, Metuchen, RB

At Sayreville

2013: Middlesex 30, Union 28

MVP – Abdel Ragab,

Edison, defensive end

At Kean University

2012: Middlesex 39, Union 15

MVP – Cody Zalasar,

Woodbridge, running back

At East Brunswick

2011: Union 28, Middlesex 6

MVP – Darius Mayers,

Roselle, running back

At Kean University

2010: Middlesex 28, Union 14

MVP – Mike Muha,

South Brunswick, quarterback

At East Brunswick

2009: Middlesex 24, Union 6

MVP – Michael Burton,

South Plainfield, cornerback

At Kean University

2008: Middlesex 14, Union 7

MVP – James White,

Piscataway, linebacker

At East Brunswick

2007: Middlesex 17, Union 10

MVP – Aireil Adams,

New Brunswick, wide receiver

At Kean University

2006: Middlesex 13, Union 7

MVP – Herbert Nieves,

Sayreville, defensive end

At South Brunswick

2005: Union 21, Middlesex 14

MVP – Chris Drechsel,

Cranford, quarterback

At Kean University

2004: Union 19, Middlesex 7

MVP – Jan Cocozziello,

Westfield, quarterback

At East Brunswick

2003: Union 13, Middlesex 0

MVP – Mike Vicci,

Johnson, quarterback

At East Brunswick

2002: Middlesex 28, Union 20

MVP – Zack Earvin,

South River, running back

At Kean University

2001: Union 17, Middlesex 16

MVP – Brandon Bracey,

Linden, defensive back

At East Brunswick

2000: Union 27, Middlesex 21

MVP – Billy Gilbert,

Elizabeth, running back

At Union

1999: Middlesex 28, Union 7

MVP – Jeff LeSeur,

Perth Amboy, wide receiver

At East Brunswick

1998: Middlesex 33, Union 7

MVP – Luke Cianello,

Dunellen, quarterback

At Union


1997: Union 28, Middlesex 7

MVP – Louis Campbell,

Rahway, quarterback

At East Brunswick

1996: Middlesex 21, Union 6

MVP – Kenny Rogers,

South Brunswick, running back

At Union

1995: Union 17, Middlesex 15

MVP – Jamie Allen,

Summit, wide receiver

At Sayreville

1994: Middlesex 35, Union 14

MVP – Khamisi Jackson,

Monroe, running back

At Union