Union football 8-0 for first time since 1992; Farmers seek to complete perfect regular season before eyeing first state championship since 1993

Host Middlesex County foe Sayreville on Nov. 1 Senior Night

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Union senior Andrew Sanborn just became the ninth quarterback in state history to reach 6,000 passing yards.

Imagine a scenario where Ridge, coached by Union graduate Bill Tracy, comes to Union’s Cooke Memorial Field the fourth weekend in November to try to prevent the host Farmers from winning their first state championship in 26 years?
It could happen. It’s that time of the year. We now start thinking about possible playoff matchups and what-ifs.
The last time Union reached a state championship game was in 2013 when Ridge handily defeated the Farmers 48-13 in that year’s North 2, Group 5 final played at Rutgers.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season Union is not only 8-0 for the first time since right after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series for the first time in 1992, but the Farmers are also the only undefeated team remaining in North, Group 5.
Union is coming off Friday night’s convincing 51-35 Mid-State 38 Conference-non division triumph at Bridgewater-Raritan where the Farmers scored 50 points for the first time in eight years. Offensively, Union spread the ball out as effectively as it could between quarterback Andrew Sanborn, running backs Christian Murrell and Diante Wilson and wide receivers Desmond Igbinosun and Kayir McBride.
It was reported that Sanborn reached 6,000 career passing yards, becoming only the ninth quarterback in state history to do so.
“If we continue to play offensively like we just did forget it,” Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. said. “We were clicking all night.”
Sanborn passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for a score.
“Andrew has matured and grown into a leader as opposed to being just a talented kid,” Grasso said.
While that was the most points the Farmers gave up and really the only game this year that Union’s first-string defense was dented, Grasso did say that his team responded to halftime adjustments.
“We had to change some of our coverages and fronts and respond to what they were doing,” Grasso said.
Union did not give up as much in the second half and managed to beat a team that it lost to 21-19 at home last year.
The two teams Union lost to in the 2018 regular season were Elizabeth and Bridgewater-Raritan.
“To be 8-0, we’re ecstatic about it because we know how hard it is in this conference to run the table,” Grasso said.
After sharing the Mid-State’s Watchung Division title with Linden and Elizabeth last year with all three being 4-1, Union won the Watchung championship outright this season at 5-0.
The Farmers are now preparing for its Middlesex County vs. Union County crossover game, a home date with Sayreville (2-5) this Friday night at 7. Union won at South Brunswick 27-14 in last year’s crossover. The Mid-State 38 Conference and Greater Middlesex Conference will merge in 2021.
“Friday night will be Senior Night for the last game of the regular season,” Grasso said. “We’ll try to do our best to be home throughout the playoffs.”
This will also be only the third home game Union will play at its own Cooke Memorial Field since the Farmers opted to host Curtis of Staten Island, NY at Rutgers in the second weekend of the Rumble on the Raritan Games held back on Sept. 7.
“It’s worked out well and made it even more special because it’s not a normal thing to have played so few games on our home field,” Grasso said. “We took the opportunity to play at Rutgers and it was a great experience how it worked out.”
The last time Union was 9-0 was also in 1992. That Lou Rettino-coached squad ended up defeating Elizabeth and Randolph again in the playoffs to repeat as North 2, Group 4 state championships with a second consecutive 11-0 finish. Present Union assistant coach Carmen Marano was a prominent senior two-way lineman on that squad.
To get to 9-0 Union must defeat a Sayreville team that is still dangerous although not quite nearly as good as last year’s unit that won Central Jersey, Group 5 and then captured its Bowl Game over South Jersey, Group 5 state champ Williamstown.
“Sayreville is such a great program,” Grasso said. “One of their better players (receiver Christian Becoate) got hurt early. It’s a great program, their kids are well-coached and we know it’s going to be some challenge.”
Last year Union exited the North 2, Group 5 playoffs with a season-ending 46-6 semifinal round thumping at Union City. The Farmers, who only trailed 14-0 at intermission, twice had the ball inside Union City’s five-yard line only to be thwarted each occasion.
“For us it’s one game at a time,” said Grasso, at the helm of the Farmers since 2013. “We feel we match up pretty well with anyone. It’s very exciting to be where we are now.
“When we look back at last year it definitely was not where we wanted to be. It still stings. We kind of go about our business the same either way.”
Here’s a look at how the PJR Sports Report, Pat Rice, lines up the sections North 1, Group 5 and North 2, Group 5 if the season ended today. For the first time ever each section will not be seeded one through eight. Instead both sections in each group size, North 1 and North 2 in Group 5 for example, will be seeded one through 16, with eight teams in one section, including the top seed, and eight teams in another, including seeds two and three.
North, Group 5:
Section 1
16-Morristown at 1-Ridgewood
13-Watchung Hills at 4-Passaic Tech
12-Montclair at 5-East Orange
9-West Orange at 8-Piscataway
Section 2
15-Eastside at 2-Union
14-Hackensack at 3-Ridge
11-Union City at 6-Clifton
10-Bridgewater-Raritan at 7-Westfield
For arguments sake let’s say this will be the case next week. That would mean Union would open at home against Paterson Eastside and if it wins would then play the winner of Bridgewater-Raritan at Westfield in the semifinals. Union beat BR with 51 points and Westfield with 10, both on the road.
If Union survives the semifinals, then the Farmers would host the championship game because they are the highest-seeded team in the section.
Union last hosted a state championship game in 1992 when the Farmers beat Randolph 21-7 in that year’s North 2, Group 4 final.