Union football prepping for big home game Friday night vs. undefeated Phillipsburg; Farmers (1-1) coming off bye week

Stateliners and Hunterdon Central both lead Delaware Division with 3-0 marks

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - Union  first-year head coach Lou Grasso Jr. is getting the Farmers ready for a big home game Friday night vs. 3-0 Phillipsburg.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Union first-year head coach Lou Grasso Jr. is getting the Farmers ready for a big home game Friday night vs. 3-0 Phillipsburg.

Here we have the winningest football program in the state invading Cooke Memorial Field for the very first time.

Phillipsburg has won 643 games, the most of any team in New Jersey, with its first year of football being 1905.

Knocking on the door of 500, Union has won 498 games, with its first season being 1922.

For the second straight season the two will clash in Mid-State 38 Conference-Delaware Division action.

For a change, Phillipsburg will be coming to Union, with kickoff set for this Friday night at 7.

This will be their fourth meeting, with Phillipsburg holding a 2-1 edge.




Sept. 28, 2012: Union 24, Phillipsburg 21 – Mid-State 38 Conference-Delaware Division

Nov. 17, 2006: Phillipsburg 42, Union 20 – N2, G4 semifinals

Nov. 18, 2005: Phillipsburg 56, Union 14 – N2, G4 semifinals


After falling at Phillipsburg by the lopsided scores of 56-14 and 42-20 in the 2005 and 2006 North 2, Group 4 semifinals, Union went back to Maloney Stadium last September and came away with a 24-21 triumph.

Union won five games last year and Phillipsburg four. Both squads have much higher aspirations this season.

Union, after its bye week, is 1-1 overall and 1-1 in the Delaware Division, with a loss at Bridgewater-Raritan and a home win over Elizabeth.

Phillipsburg is 3-0 overall and is the co-leader – along with Hunterdon Central – of the Delaware Division at 3-0. The Stateliners have defeated Hillsborough on the road and Franklin and Westfield at home.

Guided by third-year head coach Ryan Ditze, a former Phillipsburg Catholic and Albright College standout, the Stateliners dropped back down to North 2, Group 4 this season, so Friday night’s game has only Delaware Division ramifications.

Another big Delaware Division game this Friday night at 7 is Westfield (2-1, 2-1) at Hunterdon Central (3-0, 3-0).

Union first-year head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. got to scout both Phillipsburg and Westfield – Union’s next two opponents (the Farmers will play at Westfield Oct. 12) – this past Friday night when he attended the Westfield-at-Phillipsburg clash.

Phillipsburg came back in the second half to defeat Westfield 24-13. The Stateliners are now 3-0 lifetime against the Blue Devils, including one playoff victory.

“Phillipsburg has speed at the running back position and they moved a slot player to quarterback,” Grasso said. “They have a lot of options in their running game.”

Against Westfield, running backs Joe Maso and Anthony Guarino both rushed for over 100 yards.

After Westfield scored a touchdown with just over three minutes left to pull to within 17-13, Guarino – on a quarterback sneak – broke through a hole in the middle of the Westfield defense and scored on a 51-yard run. Maso finished with 155 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns and Guarino, a junior, gained 112 on 14, including his one score.

Phillipsurg quarterback Tyler Troxell has completed 17-of-33 passes for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions so far in the team’s first three games.

The Stateliner defense contained Westfield running back Eugene Rawles, who rushed for over 200 yards in Westfield’s two wins. Rawles rushed for 88 yards on 18 carries, but was unable to break any attempt for a big gain.

“Defensively, Phillipsburg is big up front and athletic at the linebacker position; they present a lot of problems,” Grasso said.

The Stateliner defense will game-plan for Union standout senior running back Jamauri Bogan, who is closing in on 5,000 career rushing yards. They will also have to pay attention to senior quarterback Diego Rios and senior running back Jabree Robertson.

Bogan has rushed for 427 yards and five touchdowns in Union’s first two games. He has 4,987 yards and 66 touchdowns for his four-year varsity career so far, both school records.

After falling at Bridgewater-Raritan 27-13 in its season-opener – BR is now 1-2 – Union bounced back with a convincing 33-14 home win over arch rival Elizabeth last weekend. It was the fourth straight time, including a playoff victory, that Union defeated Elizabeth at Cooke Memorial Field.

During a bye week, Grasso was able to get a good look at his next two opponents on the same night, at the same location, which doesn’t happen often.

“Coming off a bye week after a win is always better than after a loss,” Grasso said. “We had a good week to recharge our engines.”

Rios, a first-year starter at signal-caller, showed an ability to successfully run with the ball against Elizabeth.

“Diego’s getting there,” Grasso said. “He’s learning the system and becoming more relaxed as the starter.

“He’s a good athlete, a big, strong kid, who’s also a basketball player.”

Showing up and playing strong against Elizabeth was crucial for the Farmers after the BR setback.

“This conference doesn’t give you time to breathe,” Grasso said. “After playing Bridgewater we watched the film and turned the page.

“We had a sense of urgency against Elizabeth, but every week we need a sense of urgency against the teams we are playing.”