UNION, NJ - Gov. Livingston football alumni and 2017 graduates, Brian Biskaduros, Ben Collins, and Dan Tomlinson, and two rising sophomore cheerleaders, Amanda Anthenelli and Lexi Gonnelli, participated in the 2017 Snapple Bowl on July 20 at Kean University. Biskaduros, Collins, and Tomlinson, representing GL on the Union County team, contributed to the 27-14 win against Middlesex County.

The Snapple Bowl is an intense bout between Union and Middlesex Counties’ best football players, chosen by a panel of coaches each year. Cheerleaders from each respective high school are selected along with the players, who cheer on the sidelines during the game as well as perform a halftime show. The game is a fundraiser in support of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities and the Children’s Specialized Hospital.

This event also allows the players and cheerleaders to meet young men and women at the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities and the Children’s Specialized Hospital. Leading up to the game the players and cheerleaders were able to create special bonds with the young men and women by having conversations and doing different activities such as creating posters.

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For cheerleaders Lexi Gonnelli and Amanda Anthenelli, being chosen to represent GL was a testament to their love for cheerleading and football.

“I felt honored to represent GL since I was only a freshman when I was selected,” Anthenelli said, “Meeting new friends was amazing and [my favorite part about being involved] was bonding as a team. It was interesting when we learned new chants that had different moves GL has never seen before but overall it was amazing working with our rivals as one.”

Gonnelli gained her position as a varsity flyer on the cheer squad as a freshman and was excited to be a part of such an amazing experience.

“It was really exciting to be selected to participate in the Snapple Bowl. Going to the Hospital and seeing all the kids and how happy they were to see us and to understand what Snapple Bowl is really about was my favorite part of the experience,” Gonnelli said, “It was really cool cheering with other cheerleaders from different towns because I made friends who I will see in the upcoming season.”

For the second consecutive year, the Union County team came out victorious over Middlesex. The first score of the game came during the second quarter, when Roselle quarterback Gerald Hairston III connected from 26 yards away with another Roselle Ram, Drew Stephens. The Union County Defense prevented a Middlesex touchdown, leaving the score 7-0 at half.

After an hour rain delay during halftime, the teams took the field looking to up their gameplay. Union County was able to put another 6 points on the board as Cranford quarterback, and game MVP, Brian Oblachinski, completed a 27 yard pass to fellow Cougar Ryan Bakie.

The Middlesex team found its momentum in the game as they scored at the end of the 3rd quarter, leaving the score 13-7 with one 10-minute quarter left. Middlesex gained the lead with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter, as the team drove in another touchdown, making the score 14-13.

Union responded behind Oblachinski, who tossed the ball downfield twice to New Providence teammate Mike Barletta. Nick Fischetti, Arthur L. Johnson running back, punched the ball in for a Union touchdown; after completing a two-point conversion, the Union squad was up 21-14. In the last Middlesex drive, Defensive back Justin Beckett was able to pick off the Middlesex quarterback, setting Union up for one last touchdown. In the last seconds, Terrance Anderson of Rahway found his way to the end zone, making the final score 27-14.

Biskaduros and Tomlinson were two stout members of the Union County offensive line, providing holes and protection, allowing the Union offense to take over the Middlesex defense. Though this is the last game Biskaduros and Tomlinson will play as teammates, both will be continuing their football careers at the collegiate level. Biskaduros will be attending Muhlenburg College in Pennsylvania, while Tomlinson will be going up to Connecticut to play for University of New Haven.

“Being a part of the Snapple Bowl was a true honor. I got to represent my community, my school, I got to raise money for kids who are less fortunate than me, I got to play one more game with my teammates,” Biskaduros commented, “It was one last hoorah.”

The GL football alumn got to see a new side of football and prepare for their upcoming careers at their respective colleges.

“The experience was great; it was a very high level of competition. We got to meet new personalities, new people, make friends with people we played all season,” Biskaduros added, “It got me ready for camp this August. It meant a lot that I could help those in need while playing the game I love.”

Collins saw time as defensive end for the Union side. For Collins, participating in the Snapple Bowl was an emotional comeback, as he missed his senior year due to an ACL injury. He was able to play one last game as a Highlander before heading off to Fairleigh Dickinson University in the fall.

“Probably one of the best feelings this year for me was getting the call from Coach Guyton that I would be playing in this game,” Collins said, “It meant so much to play after losing my senior season to injury. The main reason I wanted to play this game was to play with Dan and Brian one last time, because of how much we always talked about senior year football.”

Although the game was a way for the players and cheerleaders to have one more high school football experience, they also saw the importance of giving back to those who need it most.

“To be part of helping the kids of the Children’s Specialized Hospital is incredible. After visiting we knew that playing in this game was about them, not us,” Collins said, “They showed us how lucky we are to be able to play football.”