In sports it is said that the best offense is a good defense.
Union County’s defensive Snapple Bowl XXII squad worked hard at practice on Tuesday night in the hopes of making that adage a reality in the all-star game which will be at Kean University on July 16 at 7 p.m.
All proceeds from the Snapple Bowl, which pits the top graduating seniors from Middlesex County against counterparts from Union County, benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities.
Defensive coordinator James Williams looks at the Snapple Bowl as an important source of pride for Union County. A win would give bragging rights to the players and coaches.
Willams is a third-year head coach for Abraham Clark High School in Roselle. His team went 7-4 on the season, going undefeated in the conference.
He attributes his nomination to coach in the bowl to his winning season.
“It’s a great honor to me to be coaching in this game and that they thought of me, I guess part of it has to do with the season my team had,” Williams said.
To fully prepare the boys for next week’s game may seem like a daunting task, since they come from different schools and styles of play, but Williams believes that they are equipped to handle it.
“We have smart kids, these kids played in their respective programs for four years and to be in this game means that they’re good players, so to get them up to speed and ready for the Snapple Bowl won’t be hard,” he said.
The Union County practice was an exhibition of talent and determination. The players went from socializing and enjoying the atmosphere of preparing for an all-star bowl game to focused and aware of what was at stake.
“I’m honored to be asked to play and to be on the field with some of the best athletes in my county and to be one of only two players who were asked from my team is also an accomplishment to me and the fact that it’s for a great cause makes it even better,” Jesse Giambra, defensive back from Governor Livingston High School, said. “From yesterday’s practice alone I can tell that we will be really good, we’re just installing things and preparing, but I think that we will be strong.”
For many of the athletes it will be the last time they will walk on a football field with familiar faces around them.
“It feels awesome to be playing in this game because I wanted this and I worked hard all season,” defensive lineman from Westfield High School, Harry Williamson, said. “I feel like it’s a last chance for me to get on the field with some of my friends and compete in NJ since I’ll be going away after the summer.”
Williamson will play for Sacred Heart University in the fall. He had 19 tackles, 13 assisted tackles and 5 tackles for loss of yardage last season.
After a 34-20 loss in Snapple Bowl XXI, Union County is on a redemption mission.
“The best part is that we’re playing for a greater cause, but we’re fired up,” Pat Morris, defensive lineman from New Providence, said.
For Morris, it will be his last time on a competitive football field. He is joining the U.S. Marine Corps.
Although the game is meant for players, coaches and spectators to have fun and enjoy football, the ultimate goal is to give back to charity. Matt McCann, defensive back from New Providence who had four interceptions and one return for a touchdown during the regular season, has not lost sight of that.
“It’s a good achievement for everyone here, not just myself, and it is definitely something to be proud of and the fact that the main point of this game is to give back to kids who need help just makes it that much more special,” McCann said.
What: MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII, New Jersey’s most successful charity all-star football game
Where: Kean University’s Alumni Stadium, Union
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 16
Participants: Recently graduated high school senior players and cheerleaders from Middlesex and Union counties.
About the event
Beneficiaries: All proceeds from the game, which has raised more than $485,000 since its inception, benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities.
Practice venues: Colonia High School (Middlesex County All-Stars) and Union High School (Union County All-Stars).
Key dates: Middlesex County All-Stars visit the Lakeview School in Edison and Union County All-Stars visit Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside on July 13; Snapple Bowl banquet at Pines Manor restaurant in Edison July 15.
Tickets: Can be purchased at the gate for $10.
Previewing the game: Leading up to Snapple Bowl XXII, the Home News Tribune, Courier News and MyCentralJersey.com will feature at least one story daily, as well as videos.
Game coverage: Look for a game story, a notebook, a Middlesex County sidebar, a Union County sidebar, an A1 story, a photo gallery and video highlights from Snapple Bowl XXII in the Home News Tribune, Courier News and at MyCentralJersey.com.
Social media: Follow us via Twitter @MyCJ_Sports and @SnappleBowl for updates and to interact with reporters and Snapple Bowl XXII game director Marcus Borden.
MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII official web site: Can be found at https://worknotes.com/NJ/SouthRiver/SnappleBowl/