UNION, NJ – The players feel that the chemistry is demonstratively better.
“You need that,” standout junior wide receiver-defensive back Renick Dorilas said.
The Union High School Farmers must also be held accountable. Those putting out 110% on the field believe that is just as important as making a first down on third-and-long.
“We need to be disciplined,” Dorilas said. “That was something that was lacking last year. We feel we’re much stronger now and ready to dominate right from the start.”
Returning senior linebacker Kordal Hinton was in on 133 tackles in nine games last year.
“We need to bring a lot of energy,” Hinton said. “Energy and communication is very important. Without it you can’t win.”
Omalley King (6-5, 195) now has one year under his belt at quarterback. One of the most promising junior signal-callers in the state is anxious to show how far he has come in one year.
“Last year was a learning experience,” King said. “I got my feet wet and got the experience of playing in a playoff game.
“I also found out that the pace of a varsity game, the speed and physicality of it compared to JV, is a lot faster.”
King echoed the togetherness theme his teammates discussed.
“With the game on the line, we have to stay together and believe in one another,” King said. “It’s all together as one this year.”
Zach Menon will be providing necessary blocking for King as one of Union’s key offensive linemen. On the other side of the ball, Menon, also a returning starter, is out to prevent opposing offenses from executing in both the run and pass game.
“This is an exciting time,” Menon said. “We feel we’re one of the teams people want to see. We want to prove that we’re not the same old Union of last year.”
Although Union finished just 2-7 a year ago, the Farmers did qualify for the playoffs out of North, Group 5. In a North 1, Group 5 encounter in Hudson County, the Farmers were thumped at second-seeded Union City 62-20.
“We’re more of a brotherhood,” Menon continued. “We know the plays like the back of our hands. We have to go out there now and execute. It’s a feeling of trust.”
Losing by six touchdowns in the playoffs is not what Union has in mind this year.
“We’re the Union Farmers,” Hinton said. “We want to show that we’re different from other teams.”
Representing the Farmers
• Renick Dorilas, No. 1, junior, WR-DB
• Zach Menon, No. 55, senior, OL-DL
• Kordal Hinton, No. 26, senior, FB-LB
• Omalley King, No. 0, junior, QB
“We’re more experienced and the kids worked real hard in the off-season,” said head coach Lou Grasso Jr., right before the first official day of practice. “The kids are maturing physically and emotionally.”
Grasso guided Union to its first state championship in 26 years in 2019, when the Farmers captured the North 2, Group 5 title for the first time. Union previously won a record 10 North 2, Group 4 crowns in the playoff era with coach Lou Rettino, the last of those state championships coming in 1993.
“We are back to where we’ve been with seniors and juniors playing and the sophomores developing,” said Grasso, now in his 11th season at the helm of the Farmers.
Defensive line coach Justin Bogan has seen the maturity of the players increase as well.
“We have a lot of leaders,” Bogan said. “They’re holding everyone accountable.
“Offensively, our line has increased in size, strength and speed. That’s where the game is won, in the trenches. On defense our backs are tremendous. Renick is already getting a lot of D-1 offers.”
Schools showing much interest in what Dorilas has to provide include Penn State University, Syracuse University, Boston College, University of Minnesota and Rutgers University.
Hinton averaged 14.3 tackles in 2022.
“Kordal is the heart and soul of our defense,” Bogan said.
Union first got field turf in 2007. There is new field turf this season. The Farmers will host Westfield in their home-opener on Sept. 8.
“This is the start of redemption,” Bogan said. “Union is back.”
2023 Union Farmers
• Friday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m., at Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School
• Friday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., Westfield High School
• Saturday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m., at St. Joseph High School, Metuchen
• Friday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m., Somerville High School
• Friday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m., Hillsborough High School
• Friday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m., at Elizabeth High School – Frank J. Cicarell Academy
• Friday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m., Phillipsburg High School
• Friday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m., at Ridge High School
Photo by JR Parachini