Lou Grasso Jr. steps down as head coach of the Farmers

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UNION, NJ — How to become a family, caring about each other, putting the team first, being there for the players, becoming a positive role model and going out and, amidst all the hard work, simply having fun were the football philosophies Lou Grasso Jr. took from his father, Lou Grasso Sr.

They served Lou Grasso Jr. well as he employed those edicts at Union High School the past decade and they were good enough to bring the Farmers a long-awaited state championship.

After 11 seasons at the helm of those Farmers, Grasso has decided to step down from coaching altogether, as he has accepted the position of athletic director at Colonia High School in Woodbridge. The Colonia native and 1993 Colonia High grad will start in that role beginning on Monday, July 1.

Grasso was approved by the Colonia Board of Education on Thursday, May 16. He then told his players of his decision on Friday, May 17, and then later that day posted the news on social media.

“With Ben LaSala retiring, I threw my hat in the ring,” Grasso said, speaking of Colonia’s former athletic director. “I will miss coaching and miss Union, the experience was the best.

“Colonia is my hometown and where my kids go to school. I felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Growing up with a father, Lou Grasso Sr., who was the head coach at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle for 25 seasons, from 1979 to 2003, coaching sports was indeed in the family blood. Also at Lou Jr.’s side at Union and Roselle was his brother, Dan Grasso. “What a run, brother; you were there every day for me,” Grasso Jr. said.

Grasso Sr. guided Roselle to its only state championship in the playoff era, the 1989 North 2, Group 2 crown. Thirty years later, Grasso Jr. led Union to the 2019 North 2, Group 5 title, which was Union’s first state championship in 26 years.

Grasso was an assistant at New Brunswick and then first got to Union as an assistant on head coach Brian Sheridan’s staff. He then became the head coach at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, serving in that position for the years of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Grasso became the head coach at Union in 2013 and, in that first season, led the Farmers to their first appearance in the North 2, Group 5 state championship game.

Grasso and Sheridan were roommates at Rutgers University, when they played for the Scarlet Knights in the 1990s.

“I asked Brian for a spot on his staff and the next thing I knew was that he was introducing me as one of the coaches right away,” Grasso recalled. “It was Brian handling the defense and myself the offense. We had two really good teams in 2008 and 2009, playoff teams.”

In 2018, Union reached the North 2, Group 5 semifinals. That led to a dominating 2019 season, guided by senior quarterback Andrew Sanborn, where Union entered the N2G5 playoffs at 9-0. What followed were playoff wins at home against Paterson Kennedy, West Orange and Clifton.

Union was a state champion for the first time since winning North 2, Group 4 for the 10th time in 1993.

“That 2019 season was literally the culmination of everything,” Grasso said. “We had a run in 2018 and some tough luck. I remember the day of the state championship game at Union in 2019. That was the most special day I had there.”

Grasso, a health and physical education teacher at Union, thanked former Union High School athletic director Linda Ionta for great leadership and the administration for always being there.

“The town was all in,” said Grasso, who will turn 49 on Friday, May 31. “It was a lot of hard work. There were a lot of ups and downs, but it was a great time.”

Lou Grasso Jr.
At Abraham Clark High School

2010: (7-3), sectional quarterfinalist
2011: (6-4), sectional quarterfinalist
2012: (2-8)

At Union High School

2013: (8-4), sectional finalist
2014: (4-6)
2015: (5-6), sectional semifinalist
2016: (6-5), sectional semifinalist
2017: (4-6)
2018: (8-3), sectional semifinalist
2019: (12-1), sectional champion
2020: (4-3) No playoffs, COVID-shortened season
2021: (9-2), sectional semifinalist (COVID)
2022: (2-7), sectional quarterfinalist
2023: (5-6), sectional semifinalist

Grasso guided Abraham Clark to the playoffs two of three seasons and Union eight of 10. There were no playoffs in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grasso’s 2021 Union squad had to forfeit the rest of its season after one playoff win because of a team COVID-19 situation. Union was the heavy favorite to repeat as North 2, Group 5 champs.
“Nobody was beating us that year,” Grasso said.

Photo by JR Parachini