Despite the Middlesex County All-Stars boasting a squad of perhaps the most talented balance of skill position players of any roster in Snapple Bowl history, Union County’s defense holds a considerable size advantage at the line of scrimmage, has a skilled secondary and will be ready for whatever is thrown at them.
The Union County All-Stars got together for the first time Saturday evening at Westfield High School’s Kehler Stadium and practiced in anticipation for Thursday’s MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XX.
All proceeds from this year’s 20th annual contest, which pits recently graduated high school seniors from Middlesex County against counterparts from Union County, will benefit the Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School in Edison.
More than $415,000 has been raised for the charities since the Snapple Bowl’s inception including a single-game record $47,000 last summer.
Union County head coach and defensive coordinator Scott Miller spoke about the challenges of getting a defensive unit on the same page in just a couple of practices.
“It’s a challenge but these kids can play football,” Miller said. “Our biggest goal (as coaches) is to let the players know where they need to be lined up. If we get them lined up where they’re supposed to be and just let them play, we’re satisfied with that.”
Middlesex’s signal-callers offer a dual threat out of the backfield. Carteret quarterback Tyler Rodriquez set school records this past season in all the major passing records, while Colonia quarterback Trent Barneys rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The two opposing men under center will make the execution of Union County’s secondary paramount.
“I’m going to prepare like I’ve been preparing and prepare for both sides,” said Plainfield safety Marvin Jones who is bound for Lackawanna. “I need to read my keys and do my job and tackle the guy with the ball or break it up when it comes to my side.
“I’m a strong safety that likes to come up in good run support and I like my ball skills, but my strength would be stopping the run.”
Rounding out the Union secondary is Shakiyl Glasco of Westfield, Daniel Harper of Roselle, Richie Johns of Roselle Park, Dein Rice of Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Nick Watts of Summit and Vinny Sidoli of New Providence.
Sidoli thinks he and his fellow members in the secondary will adjust to the run-pass as the game dictates.
“It all depends on who is in at the time,” Sidoli said. “If (Barneys) is in you probably wanna creep up more in the box and worry less about the pass, and if (Rodriquez) is in you worry about the pass. But it’s all about trusting your reads.”
“Depending on what we’re in coverage-wise, it’s just a matter of if we’re in zone picking up the guy who comes in your zone,” said Miller. “If we’re in man, you just run with your man so they really shouldn’t be focusing on the quarterbacks as much as what their schemes are.”
Although he admitted he’s hasn’t yet familiarized himself with the Middlesex roster, Miller thinks his squad can use its size to its advantage.
“In an all-star game when you’re playing 15-minute quarters, it’s more reflective of what kids come to practice in the best shape and what kids can play for that length of time,” he said. “The bigger guys usually struggle in these kinds of games because they haven’t done anything in a while, so hopefully we’ll be able to play a game at full speed and see what happens at the end.
Union is looking to avenge last year’s 39-15 defeat, and trails 11-8 in the series.