The first Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone Bowl Friday night was a big success in the eyes of everyone connected to it, reflected in the good crowd that came to see it.
The announced paid crowd at Bridgewater-Raritan’s Basilone Field was 2,021, but some figured there were probably more than 3,000, including a significant group of servicemen who came in free of charge. The presence of those servicemen and the U.S. Marines who were the foundation of the event and gave the atmosphere a big boost — on the financial and publicity fronts.
How many regional, one county all-star games have been touted on national television like this one was on ABC’s “Good Morning America?”
“The Marines gave us legitimacy,” said Montgomery coach Zoran Milich, who spearheaded the event with Bridgewater-Raritan coach Scott Bray.
“The first year was a great success to build off,” he added.
The Leathernecks beat the Devil Dogs 23-20, the final result also being a success since Milich and Bray worked so hard in matching up talent they thought would make for a tight contest.
Now, the planning begins for 2014, with organizers looking to money through more sponsorship after getting a jump start from the Marines. The Marines paid $6,000 to supply both teams with uniforms, will keep those used in the game, but give players exact duplicates to keep.
“We put together a great template,” said Milich. “Working with Scott, and taking (the idea) and making it a reality…it wasn’t a flop. I’m proud of the work everybody put into it.”
One of the things that may be considered is moving the game off Friday night into the mid-week. Last fall’s devastating Hurricane Sandy pushed many graduations throughout the state back a week or longer. The crowd may have picked up about 1,000 more if the game was played during the mid-week since a lot of people head off to the Shore or other vacation spots.
But for a first, it was a big winner.
“I thought the atmosphere was wonderful, the crowd on both sides were filled and it felt like a real all-star game, a lot of electricity,” said Montgomery assistant and former Voorhees head coach Mark Preibracha, who brought his sons aged 5 and 7 to the game. “And more importantly, it brought John Basilone back into the public eye.”
Williams a standout at Basilone Bowl
Only one Somerset County receiver had more yards than Bound Brook’s Isaiah Williams last fall and that was Bernards’ John Maddaluna, the Courier News Offensive Player of the Year. Maddaluna caught 52 passes for 1,231 yards and 16 touchdowns; Williams had 34 catches for 723 yards and seven. Maddaluna, who is headed to Colgate, wasn’t able to play in Friday night’s Basilone Bowl because of his college’s rule – shared by many – that doesn’t allow graduated seniors to play in all-star games. Maddaluna wanted so much to play in the game, but rules are rules and thankfully Williams didn’t face those kind.
Williams, who’ll play at East Stroudsburg, was the game’s most entertaining player, and also earned the Devil Dogs’ MVP award.
“He’s a player,” said Montgomery coach Zoran Milich.
He finished with six catches for 83 yards, one of those a first-half screen from Bridgewater-Raritan quarterback Donnie Stires in which Williams looked all over for an opening, reversed field twice, then ran for a big gainer. The crowd and some of the players on both sidelines were as taxed as he was and the Leathernecks who chased him.
“Everywhere I looked there were linemen, I was just looking for an opening,” he said.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I had to make the best of it,” he added. “It was my last high school game and I wanted to make it one to remember. It was awesome to be MVP, it was a great feeling and the fact that I was coming from a small school.”
One of a kind
Basilone Bowl organizers were proud to say their game was one of its kind. How many summer all-star football games are made up by schools from one county? Somerset County’s 13 football-playing schools had at least one player in the game with Hunterdon County’s Delaware Valley of Alexandria part of it.
The Snapple Bowl, to be held July 18 at Kean University, pits graduated stars from Union and Middlesex counties. That same night, Monmouth and Ocean grduated senior standouts will play at Toms River North in the U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic. The Paul Robeson All-Star Football Classic – played June 11 in East Orange pitted players from Essex County and eastern Passaic County against stars from Morris County and western Passaic.
Tuesday’s Sunshine Classic at The College of New Jersey in Ewing with a 7 p.m. kickoff is anchored by Mercer County schools and fortified by those from Burlington County and school from Monmouth. The Sunshine game will also feature five players North Hunterdon, and two from South Hunterdon.
L: Eddie Lee 37 pass from Sean Palen (Matt Kassebaum kick)
D: Tom Goodberlet 33 pass from Donny Stires (Michael Pennella kick)
L: FG Kassebaum 27
L: Tyree Melton 4 run (kick failed)
L: Kevin Russoniello 29 pass from Palen (Kassebaum kick)
D: Matt Barbosa 10 pass from Stires (pass failed)
D: Pennella 4 run (Pennella kick)
LT: Palen 16-22-1-278; DD: Stires 12-18-1-137, Giaimo 4-11-0-78
LT: Lee 9-33; DD: Hogan 13-33
LT: Russoniello 4-95, Lee: 3-59, Benjamin 5-53; DD:Goodberlet 4-85, Williams 6-83, Barbosa 1-10