One is taking a prep year more than 200 miles from the field where he wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Not to be outdone, the other will travel about a thousand miles from the Gus Vanderbeek Athletic Complex to train with some of the best future college stars in the nation.
But both are looking toward big college futures beyond that.
The coronavirus pandemic left a lot of uncertainty in college football recruiting circles, unless you were being recruited by a big FCS school that played in the fall. Sure, schools like Rutgers had their share of question marks with the transfer portal, but an extra year of NCAA eligibility left a lot of FBS schools that played this spring with more questions than answers, and that trickled down all the way to high school, affecting guys like Somerville’s star running back Cookie Desiderio, and disruptive defensive end A.J. Pena.
Desiderio was named Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2020, averaging a touchdown every 5.8 carries, the best such ratio in the state. He’s going to the IMG Academy in Florida.
Pena was named CJSR’s Defensive Player of the Year, with 44 tackles and 12 sacks in just seven games. He’ll be prepping at the Milford Academy in upstate New York.
We caught up with the pair recently, as we presented them with commemorative footballs marking their honors, as well as head coach Dallas Whitaker, who accepted the CJSR Team of the Year ball. The Pioneers finished 7-0, the only undefeated team in the Big Central Conference.
Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talking with Somerville’s Cookie Desiderio, A.J. Pena, and head coach Dallas Whitaker: