SOMERVILLE, N.J. – The 4th Annual Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone Bowl was an exciting one to see at Somerville High School’s Brooks Field June 30, with the Devil Dogs taking the win.
The charity game presented by the U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Station of New Jersey and the Somerset County Football Coaches Association benefited the Basilone Memorial Foundation. And those in attendance who spent eight dollars were treated to an All-Star like football game featuring 13 Somerset County schools and two Hunterdon County schools (South Hunterdon and Delaware Valley) between the Devil Dogs and Leather Necks. And for the third straight year, the Devil Dogs were victorious with a 21-13 triumph that came down to the wire.
The Devil Dogs took a 14-7 lead into halftime with scores from Bridgewater-Raritan’s Matt Miliotis (the Dogs’ offensive MVP), who caught a 12-yard strike over the middle from Watchung Hills’ quarterback Mark Ball on the game’s opening possession, and the second coming on a 38-yard pass from Bridgewater-Raritan’s Eric Nickel to Immaculata’s Derek Walker. The score remained the same through the third quarter and after the Dogs missed a field goal on the first play of the final quarter.
On the Leather Necks’ ensuing drive, Somerville quarterback Mike Tarver hit Somerville’s Jeremiah Lynch over the middle for a 30-yard score with 8:08 left in the game to cut the deficit to 14-13. It looked like the same play that had the Leather Necks’ overall MVP wide open in the second quarter for his first score of the night – a 29-yard pass from Franklin’s Darius Gibson. But, the Leather Necks pushed the envelope and missed a gutsy two-point conversion call as Tarver rolled right and his pass to the back right cover of the end zone went wide.
The Devil Dogs got the ball back but failed to do much and was forced to punt the ball. The Leather Necks’ got the ball back with 6:06 left on the clock, but turned the ball over on the downs.
But just like the second half, the team’s traded a few turnovers, big hits, and big plays in the first half. Both teams battled, but the Devil Dogs upped their series record to 3-1.
The bowl game is in honor of United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant John A. Basilone (Nov. 4, 1916 – Feb. 19, 1945), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his heroism during the battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. According to basiloneparade.com, Basilone helped his small group of 16 men fend off thousands of Japanese soldiers. Basilone manned two machine guns, fixed two more, crawled into hostile territory with bullets flying over his head and grenades exploding around him to get ammunition, and lastly finished off the Japs with his pistol.
The sixth of 10 children to parents Salvatore Basilone and Dora Bencivenga, Basilone was born in Buffalo, N.Y. but the family returned to Raritan in 1918 where his five older siblings were born.
Basilone was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima in Japan, but was awarded the Navy Cross. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia near Washington D.C.
In addition, the fallen and most decorated Marine has an annual parade held in his honor in the town of Raritan, with the 2016 edition set for Sept. 18 at 1p.m.
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