UNION, NJ - Former Chargers Ryan Szatkowski and Jack Keenan took the field for the Middlesex County Team in the annual Snapple Bowl, which typically features graduating seniors. Players are chosen by their peers. Szatkowski and Keenan, who both graduated in June were picked back in March as Spotswood High School's representatives. Players must be able to commit to the summertime practices and other public appearances that come with the Snapple Bowl that also serves as a fundraiser.
The 24th Snapple Bowl took place on Thursday, July 20. Union was able to secure the win over Middlesex in a closely contested game. The game came down to the final few possessions, but Union came out with a 27-14 win.
Former East Brunswick High School teacher and football coach Marcus Borden, the Snapple Bowl founder and director, has raised close to $600,000 from the games since 1994. The money benefits the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, and the Children’s Specialized Hospital.
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This All-Star Game is more than just football as the game raises money for a great cause. 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.
Snapple Bowl XXIV was held at the beautiful Kean Alumni Stadium where the Middlesex All-Stars and Union All-Stars went head-to-head. Historically, Middlesex has a 14-9 record in the Snapple Bowl, but the Union All-Stars won the game last year with a score of 13-7.
On the first possession for both teams, they each missed field goals resulting in a scoreless first quarter. However, in the second quarter, Union drove down the field and capped off the drive on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Drew Stephens from Roselle High School to take a 7-0 lead. Union went into halftime winning 7-0.
Lighting caused an hour delay, but the game started back up with shortened, 10-minute quarters.
In the third quarter with about five minutes remaining, Union took a 13-0 lead but Middlesex came storming back. Early in the fourth quarter Middlesex scored a touchdown cutting the deficit to 13-7. A few possessions later wide receiver from South Plainfield, DeShai Smith made a 22 yard touchdown catch allowing Middlesex to take a 14-13 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.
Then Union marched down the field and took back a 21-14 lead after a touchdown and a successful 2-pt conversion.
Middlesex had one more shot but on their first play they threw an interception, which led to another Union touchdown to secure the 27-14 win.
Szatkowski and Keenan's appearance in this week's Snapple Bowl capped off stellar careers on the gridiron as Chargers.
"Ryan and Jack have been a major factor in the success of our program over the last three years," Assistant Spotswood High School Football Coach Daniel Krainski said in the spring. "They have been apart of three division championship teams and have helped instill an expectation to win and succeed. Through all the success, they have still managed to keep a laid back atmosphere and always seem to have fun while playing. They are an excellent representation of us for this All-Star game."
Szatkowski was also a member of the Chargers' baseball team that claimed their first Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division title in a decade in May. The Spotswood native will be heading to Castleton State University in Castleton, Vermont in the fall.
Union took the past two Snapple Bowls. However, prior to last year's win for Union, Middlesex had won the previous four contests. Former Charger Chase Fee was the 2015 Snapple Bowl Most Valuable Player. The MVP for the 2017 Snapple Bowl was former Cranford High School quarterback, Brian Oblachinski.