WOODBRIDGE, NJ – The electric atmosphere of the fourth quarter during the 23rd annual Snapple Bowl on July 21 more than made up for the lackadaisical first three, as the Union All-Stars broke a scoreless tie with two late touchdowns to beat Middlesex, 13-7, at Woodbridge’s Nicholas A. Priscoe Stadium.
Elizabeth quarterback Ja’Quill Burch led both Union scoring drives. The future Montclair State signal caller erased the tie in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter with a 14-yard option run to the left. Later in the game, Burch directed the drive that culminated in a Guillaume Guirvenson 3-yard touchdown run.
Burch, who missed most of his senior season at Elizabeth due to a broken leg, said his goal was to be aggressive in the second half and that paid off in the end.
“Coach said to come out of the locker room and be aggressive,” Burch said. “That’s what we did…We ran the option inside and the linebacker was jumping all day. Coach told me to keep it and score with it. That’s what we did.”
Trailing 13-0 with 3 minutes to go, Middlesex made a late run to try and tie the game. Woodbridge quarterback Tracy Fudge cut the Union lead in half when he hit fellow Barron James Modica with a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Middlesex then forced a Union punt with 1:39 to play. However, on the second play of Middlesex’s final drive, Union High School’s Kyle Boyd intercepted a Fudge pass to seal the game.
“I just knew that something had to happen so we could win the game,” Boyd said. “…Luckily the interception came to me. I jumped [the pass] and caught it. It was good, great move.
The Union All-Stars victory snaps a 4-game winning streak for Middlesex County, however, that was the last thing on the players’ minds following the game. Instead, their focus was on the patients of Children Specialized Hospital and the NJ Institute for Disabilities, who are the benefactors of the game.
According to Snapple Bowl personnel, the 2016 game raised close to $50,000 combined for both causes, which is a record for the event.
For New Providence/Union County linebacker Andy Urness the charitable aspect of the game is what makes the experience so special.
“We went on a hospital visit to meet all the kids we are raising money for,” Urness said. “As much as the game gets so intense here, its all about those kids at the end of the day. Its not about us winning. Its not about Union County. Its not about Middlesex County. It really felt good to one – get the win, but two – either way, win or lose, we were going to win for those kids tonight.”
Players are choosen by their peers and feature mostly graduated seniors from their respective high schools in Union and Middlesex County. Two former Spotswood High School Chargers, Lou Vacca and Derek Schneider, were on the field for Middlesex.
The game also showcases cheerleaders as well. Four members of the Spotswood High School cheerleading squad, including Emily Baile, Elizabeth Nielsen, Sibel Siglam and Alexa Robel, were on the sidelines for Middlesex and performed in a halftime show that was choreographed by Spotswood High School social studies teacher and varsity cheerleading coach, Colleen Meyers.
Meyers' assistant coach and fellow choreographer was fellow Spotswood School District colleague, Jackie Cassidy. Cassidy is a first grade teacher at the Schoenly School and is also a cheerleading coach at SHS. She is a former Charger cheerleader and once performed in the Snapple Bowl herself.
In the 2015 Snapple Bowl, former Charger standout, Chase Fee, was named the MVP. It was the first time in the long history of the annual game that a Spotswood High School football player received the honor.
This year's MVP honors were awarded to Osaheni Omokaro of Union County's Hillside High School.