UNION (Union) – Johnathon O’Halloran, who will enter his senior year at Woodbridge High School, was crowned champion of the inaugural MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl Mascot Challenge on Thursday night.
O’Halloran was honored during a halftime ceremony in which he was presented an official Middlesex County game jersey with his name printed on the back and with The Debbie Ganz Spirit of the Game Award, named after a dedicated volunteer who has been with the Snapple Bowl since its inception.
All proceeds from Snapple Bowl XXII, which has raised more than $485,000 over the past 21 years, benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside and the Edison-based Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities.
The all-star game, which was played at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium, pitted the top recently graduated seniors from Middlesex and Union counties against one another.
“We are all just very proud of Johnathan,” said Woodbridge athletic director Joe Ward, who attended the game along with Glenn Lottmann, the high school’s principal. “He worked his tail off, and I think he really deserves this award.
“It brings him and his family great honor, but also Woodbridge High School and the whole Woodbridge community, as well.”
The mascot who raised the most money (50 percent of scoring), earned the most votes in MyCentralJersey.com’s online poll (30 percent of scoring) and promoted himself or herself most creatively on social media (20 percent of scoring) was crowned champion.
O’Halloran raised more than $2,500 for the Snapple Bowl’s beneficiaries through a crowdfunding Internet campaign. He also placed first in online voting with 8,620 of the more than 21,000 votes cast for the nine competing mascots.
“The Barron of Woodbridge has raised the stakes of the Snapple Bowl,” said Marcus Borden, the game’s founder and director. “He is the top money-raiser ever in the Snapple Bowl by one individual. We’re talking about players, cheerleaders, mascots, anyone. That is quite an accomplishment.
“He is a phenomenal young man. Very enthusiastic. He’s magnetic, and he performed spectacularly in his quest to be the No. 1 mascot in Middlesex County.”
Tri-state area broadcasting personality Joe Nolan, best known for his traffic reports on WPLJ and WABC-TV in New York, called the play-by-play of Snapple Bowl XXII over New Jersey Internet Radio.
A rebroadcast of the entire game can be heard at www.njir.net/.
Nolan, who was raised in Westfield, where he attended Holy Trinity High School, also graduated from Seton Hall University.
Borden said Kean University, which hosted the Snapple Bowl for the eighth time, is an outstanding partner to the charity all-star game, meeting all of the event’s needs from security and parking to concessions and media.
Kean University officials do not charge Borden for the use of their facilities or personnel, which allows the Snapple Bowl to dedicate more of its proceeds to the game’s beneficiaries.
The school’s facilities, which include a state-of-the-art athletic training rehab center that is among the finest for Division III schools nationwide, may be only second in the state to Rutgers University’s.
Alumni Stadium’s 5,300-seat venue features an HD-quality video scoreboard, the first of its kind at a New Jersey Division III school, in the north end zone.
Coaches of the Year
As is an annual Snapple Bowl tradition, Marcus Borden, the game’s founder and director, recognized a Coach of the Year from Middlesex and Union counties.
Tom Roarty, who guided Colonia to an 11-1 record, which marked the best finish in school history, was named the Snapple Bowl’s Middlesex County Coach of the Year.
Deon Candia, who guided Linden to a 10-2 record, which marked the best finish in school history, was named the Snapple Bowl’s Union County Coach of the Year.
Each was presented with a plaque during a halftime ceremony.
Every player competing in Snapple Bowl XXII wore a black sticker with the letters “ZAP” in white print on the back of their football helmets in honor of John Zappulla, a former Hillside gridiron coach who died last month. He was 76.
Zappulla, who spent 51 years as an assistant coach at Hillside, was previously honored during halftime of Snapple Bowl XX with the game’s Outstanding Service Award. Zappulla served under 14 head coaches at Hillside and coached in the Snapple Bowl for 12 years.
Snapple Bowl spectators and participants further honored Zappulla with a moment of silence for him prior to the national anthem.
“When you think of Coach Zappulla, he was a guy that loved the kids and loved football,” Union County offensive coordinator Scott Miller said. “He’s seen generation after generation. He’s coached kids whose parents he previously coached. He loved the Snapple Bowl. He loved getting involved in the game. His wisdom and years of experience will not only be missed by Hillside but by Union County in general.”
Familiar coin toss
Lakeview School alumnus George Prenderville, a familiar site on the sidelines, has attended every Snapple Bowl game and pregame banquet.
Prenderville was back on the field yet again Thursday night, this time participating in the opening coin toss.
Staff Writer Greg Tufaro: email@example.com