Small schools have big impact on defense in Basilone Bowl I

Small schools have big impact on defense in Basilone Bowl I


Small schools have big impact on defense in Basilone Bowl I



A couple of small schools from northern Somerset County had a large say defensively in the Leathernecks’ 23-20 win over the Devil Dogs in Basilone Bowl I Friday night.

With Pingry’s defensive coordinator John Leef calling the Leathernecks’ defense, the unit held the Devil Dogs to just one touchdown through three quarters before letting up two late and inconsequential scores.

“Our hands are a little tied in an all-star game with what you can do on defense,” said Leef. “The one thing you can do is give the other team a bunch of different looks from the secondary, and that’s what we practiced all week.

“We were most afraid of blown coverages, but the secondary did a fantastic job changing things up. We didn’t play the same defense in the secondary for two plays in a row the entire game, and the kids played terrific.”

That secondary held – what was on paper an explosive passing attack with Devil Dogs quarterback Donny Stires of Bridgewater-Raritan having his teammate in wideout Tommy Goodberlet and Bound Brook’s explosive flanker in Isaiah Williams – in check for the most part.

Meanwhile, a player from Bernards was leaving his mark on the game. Mountaineers linebacker Greg Bolton flied all over the field all game and registered eight tackles.

“We’ve played a couple games against Bernards in tough, tough games, and (Bolton) is a tough player,” Leef said. “He was the smallest center probably that we played against, but he’s a tough kid. He’s got a motor and gets to the ball.”

Bolton was a stalwart in the middle of the field bringing the stellar play from the defensive line and the secondary.

“The game was for a great cause, and it was my last football game so I was trying to go all out on every play and make tackles,” said Bolton.

“The teamwork and all the schools coming together was a really cool experience,” he added. “When it came down to it, we came together and pulled through and won the game.”

MVP honors

Six players – three from each team — were selected as game MVPs.

For the Devil Dogs, Bridgewater-Raritan wideout Tommy Goodberlet was the team offensive MVP; Watchung Hills linebacker Charlie Perruso was the defensive MVP; and Bound Brook wideout Isaiah Williams was overall team MVP.

For the Leathernecks, Franklin running back Eddie Lee was the offensive MVP; Pingry defensive lineman Adam Palmer was defensive MVP; and Immaculata quarterback Sean Palen was named overall team MVP.

Oh captain,
my captain

Each team selected four captains to represent them in the inaugural game. For the Devil Dogs, they were Bound Brook wideout Isaiah Williams, Bridgewater-Raritan linebacker Michael Pannella, Delaware Valley running back Sean Hogan and North Plainfield linebacker Chris Smith. The Leathernecks’ captains were Immaculata quarterback Sean Palen, Montgomery linebacker Jake Colangelo, Franklin defensive back Sean Anya and Bernards offensive linemen Zach DeLeon.

Nice tribute

At the 12:39 mark of the second quarter, public address announcer Jim Gano asked all current and former military service members to stand and receive what was a loud applause from the fans in attendance.

Strike up the band

The 11-member Bound Brook High School marching band, under the direction of Chris Shaffner, was selected to perform at the inaugural game. At halftime, they performed the University of Notre Dame fight song – Victory March.

Who’s who

The game brought together 85 recently graduated high school seniors from across Somerset County and the surrounding area, representing 14 schools: Bernards, Bridgewater-Raritan, Bound Brook, Franklin, Hillsborough, Immaculata, Manville, Montgomery, North Plainfield, Pingry, Ridge, Somerville, Watchung Hills and Delaware Valley, who have demonstrated success both on and off the field.


More USA TODAY High School Sports