ELIZABETH — You expect that a Union vs. Elizabeth football game will be an absolute battle that often comes down to a few game-changing plays.
As one of the greatest rivalries in the state, the two teams’ meet-ups are always a must see event. That was certainly the case last year, when Elizabeth got the best of Union in the regular season before the Farmers extracted revenge with an epic comeback in the first round of the playoffs.
But this season? Well, the scoreboard Friday night does that talking.
Union (2-0) went off and played nearly flawlessly to come away with an overpowering 35-0 win over their neighboring rivals at Williams Field in Elizabeth. Andrew Sanborn went off to throw three touchdown passes — two to Desmond Igbinosun and another to Ahmirr Robinson — and used his legs to run for another, while Christian Murrell added a rushing TD. The Farmers scored 21 points in the first half, leaving no doubt about this one.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Sanborn told TAPinto Union. “I have a lot of weapons around me. I’ve got Ahmirr on one side and Desmond on the other. I’ve got running backs and my O-Line is great this year. We’re really good.”
“It’s Union vs. Elizabeth, so anything can happen,” he added. “We didn’t want to take anything for granted. We had a hard week of practice, and put what we did in practice onto the field. It showed.
To turn in a great offensive performance against Elizabeth is sweet, but to shut the Minutemen has to be even sweeter for the Farmers. Elizabeth might be down this season, but always possesses a potent offense with playmakers — but Union’s defense rose to the occasion and put a stop to that Friday.
“Elizabeth vs. Union is a big game, so for us to come out and shut them out was huge,” said Igbinosun. “It shows a lot about what’s going on at “The U” and there are great things to come… We just put the foot to the pedal this week at practice. We knew it was Elizabeth week, and in Elizabeth week, we go crazier than any other week.”
Subtract Union’s first offensive play of the game, and the Farmers truly did go crazy from wire to wire.
Murrell got it started with an eight-yard touchdown run as time expired in the first quarter, gashing the line and breaking a tackle at the goal line. That capped off an impressive drive sparked by a 33-yard hookup from Sanborn to Igbinosun that put the Farmers in the red zone.
It was smooth sailing from there. On the Farmers’ very next drive, Sanborn would connect with Robinson on a monstrous 71-yard touchdown up the middle, where Robinson was wide open. The Farmers’ QB then closed out the half with a seven-yard keeper TD with under a minute remaining to make it 21-0 at the intermission. Sanborn faked a handoff to Murrell, who swept right as Saborn entered the endzone courtesy of some big time blocks from his line up front — Terrell Cannon, Chiemela Onuegbu, Khari Parker, Jared Durand, and Malachi Pierre-Louis. That touchdown was also sparked by a big pass, this time it was Sanborn finding Robinson for a 28-yard gain, bringing the Farmers from the Elizabeth 41 and into the red zone.
“Anytime you get up on Elizabeth early in a game, it’s good,” Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr., said. “It’s so tough to play here and they’re such a good program. We’re just happy that we were able to get out of here with a win."
"This has been the biggest game in Union County for my whole lifetime," Grasso added. "To be involved in it is great, and to be successful is even better."
The victory was iced when Sanborn threw pair of 34-yard touchdown passes to Igbinosun in the third quarter to extend the lead to five TDs. The first came on the opening drive of the half, and the second — which was a route down the right sideline — with 2:06 remaining in the quarter.
With a stud at the other receiver position in Rutgers commit Robinson, Igbinosun is not always the main receiver people focus on when looking at Union’s offense. But the junior showed out on Friday night and be a major key in the Farmers’ offensive success as the season progresses.
“We go by the model, ‘I.C.E.’: I catch everything,” Igbinosun said. “We just try to make as many opportunities as possible... For us to score and celebrate like that shows a lot about our chemistry.”
The opportunities certainly grow with a quarterback like Sanborn, who, in just two games this season, has fully displayed why he’s considered the state’s top QB.
“Drew, that’s my boy. I love Drew.,” Igbinosun said. “Drew has the best arm in the state; he was ranked No. 1 in the state. For me to be catching passes from the No. 1 quarterback in the state is unbelievable.”
Sanborn had entered this game not having ever won at Williams Field in Elizabeth. So in what is likely to be his last chance to do so, Sanborn made sure to fulfill that wish.
“It felt great. I haven’t won on Elizabeth’s field in my high school career yet,” Sanborn said. “This feeling doesn’t get any better.”