In the end, there was no debate, little surprise: Cookie Desiderio was the top offensive player in the Big Central Conference.
The 6-1, 215-pound senior runningback was a dominant force on offense, right from the get-go.
In the Pioneers’ opener, Desiderio touched the ball only six times, four of them resulting in touchdowns. He had two rushing touchdowns on two carries, totaling 113 yards. Desiderio also had four catches, “only” two of them resulting in touchdowns, and a total 98 receiving yards.
Of course, it could only go “downhill” from there, and it did. All the “Cookie Monster” did the rest of the season was score a touchdown every 5.8 carries, the best rate in the state of New Jersey. And he led the entire Garden State scholastic scene with 26 rushing touchdowns, adding four more TD grabs.
Click below to hear Cookie Desiderio and Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Pena of Somerville talk together about their undefeated 7-0 season:
Three others earned Honorable Mention status on offense: New Providence runningback Charlie Barth, Monroe quarterback Aidan McLaughlin, and North Brunswick signal caller Frankie Garbolino.
McLaughlin is the only senior of the bunch. He threw for 1,433 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, with only 5 INTs. That was good for an average of 238.8 yards per game, and he tossed for over 300 yards three times. In a Week 2 win over Perth Amboy where the Falcons scored a school record 63 points, McLaughlin was not to be outdone: he tossed for an all-time program best 315 yards on 14-of-23 passing, with three touchdowns. He eclipsed his own mark later in the season in a win over a solid South Brunswick team, tossing for a cool 370 yards.
Barth is just a junior, so the Central Jersey Sports Radio Two-Way Player of the Year will be back for another year to defend his title. He rushed for 1,702 yards and 25 touchdowns on 186 carries, and was the closest of anyone in the Big Central – even the state – to Desiderio’s pace: scoring on every 7.4 carries. He scored 25 of the team’s 34 rushing touchdowns, and had multiple scores in all but one game, notching four TDs in a game twice.
Garbolino is the youngest of the bunch, a sophomore thrust into a starting role who came up roses. He went 124-for-215 for 1,685 yards, tossing 17 touchdowns and only 6 picks. The only game where he didn’t throw for at least 100 yards was his varsity debut, a 93-yard passing effort in an 18-9 win at Sayreville. And he spent his best offensive output on one of the Raiders’ toughest opponents, in a 32-7 home win over state-ranked Passaic Tech.