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Sep, 2020

Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL ready to hit the gridiron this fall

SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. (BVM) — The Scotch Plains Fanwood Police Athletic League (PAL) football and cheer season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 4 when the New Jersey Suburban Youth Football League (NJSYFL) games are normally scheduled during the season. COVID-19 forced state officials in New Jersey to start youth sports later than the usual starting time of early September.

“The Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL has issued disinfectant spray bottles to every football player and equipment sanitary wipes to each team, for both football and fall softball,” PAL vice president Bruce Moran said. “Each athlete will have a face cover and each football helmet is equipped with a face guard. All athletes in the fall, including cheerleaders, will have their temperature taken before and after each game and practice. A certified trainer will be on site for every game on a Sunday during the football season.”

The flagship program for the Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL, located in Union County, N.J., has always been football. There are 110 children in grades K-6 who play flag football, which the PAL offers before children join the tackle program. The tackle program starts with third grade and runs through eighth grade. Players in grades 3-6 have the option to play for the tackle program or in the flag football program. Most children join the tackle program once they enter third grade, Moran said.

The NJSYFL is the governing body for players in grades 3-8 and contains 20 communities throughout New Jersey. Among the local communities that play in the NJSYFL are neighboring towns Westfield, Clark, Cranford, Summit, New Providence and Berkeley Heights.

The NJSYFL offers a Super Bowl championship game for grades 5-8; third and fourth graders do not play for titles.

“The Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL football program has had very good success during the league playoffs that are held in November when the eight-game regular season comes to an end,” Moran said. “The Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL has won numerous championships since the 1990s, with the most recent coming this past season when the fifth grade Raiders won the Super Bowl, beating New Providence in the title game, 7-0, at Bloomfield High School, the site for the 2019 Super Bowls for all grade levels.”

The Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL was founded in 1991 by a Scotch Plains police officer, Brian Mahoney, who grew up in the community; and Gene Schiller, a long-time coach and the athletic director at Scotch Plains Fanwood High School.

In the early years, the spearheads to the PAL were Mahoney, Mark Zyla, Ed Belford, Russ Yeager, Tom Patterson, Ted Schiller, Jonathan McLean and Jim Cassidy. Mahoney’s wife, Suzanne, launched the PAL’s popular cheerleading program in 1992. Then, police officers such as Shawn Johnson, Paul Belford, Luke Fugett and Chris Aversa, and civilians such as Moran; Sue Judge, who took over as cheerleading director; and Dave Valian continued the successful tenure of the PAL.

The Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL competes in numerous sports: football, cheerleading, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls volleyball, and girls softball. There are 687 total athletes competing for the Raiders during 2020: 253 for football, 102 cheerleaders, 220 for basketball, 67 for softball, and 95 for volleyball, all in grades K-8 from the combined communities of Scotch Plains and Fanwood.

Hundreds of graduated Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL athletes in all sports have played at the collegiate level.

“In football, two former PAL players have played in the National Football League,” Moran said. “Nate Jones, who played for the PAL in the late 1990s, was a member of the Dallas Cowboys and played defensive back and was a kick returner. He has since retired from the NFL. Presently, Rashan Gary is an outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and will begin his second season in the NFL. He was a standout in college at the University of Michigan.”

The PAL athletes have achieved much involvement in the community over the years, Moran said. They have collected food drives to send supplies overseas to soldiers and have helped in garbage cleanups. They have also volunteered in assisting local houses of worship in various events. The PAL is also a sponsor of local Cub Scout pack in the community.

“Meanwhile, the PAL has been crafting community service projects for the athletes to serve the towns in the near future,” Moran said. “Among the projects are decorating the downtown district of both Scotch Plains and Fanwood, organizing a Breakfast with Santa, a cleanup operation of all the parks in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, a Ghost Walk during Halloween and a food drive during the holidays.”

PAL also donates funds each year to both the Scotch Plains and Fanwood first aid squads and supports Project Graduation. The Scotch Plains Fanwood PAL contributes funding to the high school’s athletic programs where they can be used to fund a trip for the track and field athletes who qualified for the national championship meet each June in North Carolina as well as assist in having supplies shipped to soldiers throughout the world.

“I have been a part of the PAL for over 22 years,” said Shawn Johnson, president of the Scotch Plains PAL. “As president, our board of trustees and I look to provide a stable setting for the youth of our community. The PAL has many sports under its umbrella. We are looked upon to provide sports to towns (Scotch Plains and Fanwood) that does not have middle school sports The development and enjoyment of the activities that we provide is our focal point.”


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