PISCATAWAY — Union football and its fans are in for a special treat this Saturday.
As if the Farmers’ season opener against Curtis of Staten Island wasn’t a big enough deal already, the squads were extended a special opportunity to play the game as part of the Rumble on the Raritan Northeast Rivalry Series at Rutgers University. Residing 17 miles away from each other and separated by the Newark Bay, the two teams will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. from the 50,000+ seat SHI Stadium. It is the middle of three games on the day and sixth of seven total in the event.
“The staff is extremely excited to have Union, with its history and tradition, play in the Northeast Rivalry Series,” event director/coordinator Tom McGuire told TAPinto.net. “I was a young kid following football when Lou Rettino was leading the Farmers, and know of their legacy quite well.”
For some, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. For others, like head coach Lou Grasso or star wide receiver Ahmirr Robinson, it’s a chance to play on familiar territory.
Grasso was a letter winner as a linebacker for the Scarlet Knights during the 1990s before beginning his teaching and coaching career. The three-star recruit Robinson, on the other hand, is about to embark on a career as a Scarlet Knight, having committed to Rutgers on a football scholarship in May and will enter college this upcoming summer.
Robinson is one of the rebuilding Big Ten program’s most exciting recruits for the college class of 2024, and his first appearance at his future home digs will surely be an event Rutgers fans want to see.
“Having Robinson play here is good for Rutgers fans,” McGuire said. “The faithful are really excited to see what he can do.”
Union’s ties with the Rutgers football program lie even deeper. Current Rutgers star redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Mike Tverdov played for Grasso and graduated from “The U” in 2017. Tverdov’s brother, Pete, also played at Rutgers after a career in Union.
Tverdov and Rutgers will be in Iowa for their Big Ten opener at the same time Saturday, but Union will surely be
“It’s exciting,” Grasso said. “I played there in college and I’m obviously a fan. We have Mike Tverdov starting there right now and have Ahmirr Robinson committed to Rutgers. We’re familiar with the program and the facility. Any chance you get to play in a Big Ten stadium, it’s an honor for the kids and an opportunity that’s tough to pass up.”
The opportunity arose after Union had already scheduled to play Curtis in the season opener. Originally slated to be a home game at Cook Memorial Field in Union, a chance to take part in the Rumble on the Raritan was a no-brainer.
The three-day event saw three games last Saturday — hosting New Jersey powerhouses such as St. Peter’s Prep, Seton Hall Prep, St. Joseph (Hamm.), Millville, and Highlands Regional — and four more this coming. On Friday night at 8 p.m., the biggest high school game in the country will take place on The Banks, as the nationally-ranked No. 10 team in the country, St. John’s College Prep of Washington D.C. squares off against No. 15 St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia. Prior to the Union-Curtis game, two New York City powerhouses battle — Abraham Lincoln and Archbishop Stepinac.
The night cap on Saturday features a prime Essex County showdown in West Orange vs. Montclair — two teams that Union could very likely see come postseason time.
But right now, the Farmers’ sole focus is on 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s probably going to be a little difficult in the beginning just getting the kids to settle down and play their game,” said Grasso. “But, it’s something that we look forward to and we’re excited for it.”
Tickets are $10 and can be punched online or at the stadium box office. Parking is in the stadium’s Red and Green lots, and is $15.