Every respectable parent wants their offspring to succeed in something. When it doesn’t happen in the first generation, then maybe the second generation is better than nothing. As this blood-line connection becomes weaker with each generation, still it follows that a grandson, particularly a namesake, like Robert, can fulfill a grandparent’s wish to see success, even two generations later. So this story is about grandpa, and his grandson, Robert, and the bloodline that connects the two.
In his early years Grandpa managed to do well enough, but never really excelling. As the quarterback on a six-man football team in Kansas in the 1940s, he managed to star in a story that is noteworthy, Blackie’s Brainstorm. Blackie was Wakefield’s basketball, football, softball and track coach, as well as shop and PE teacher. This sordid story marked the end of grandpa’s accomplishments in football.
As luck would have it, 40+ years later, Robert flew into the New Jersey Fiorentino family like a KamiKazi pilot on December 7, 2001. From a mighty kick in-utero, Robert broke his mother’s water, and produced his own delivery three weeks early. Ever since that auspicious occasion, he has seemed destined to make a mark somewhere, somehow. Shown here as a one-year-old, Robert (No 99) displays that dogged determination to leave his mark.
As a Junior at Somerville High School, Somerville New Jersey, Robert left a mark as an accomplished football player. While Robert played on the varsity some during his Sophomore year, his Junior year he broke the ice, and became a pillar of strength as a running back, and an outstanding season for football fans in his division.
An outstanding quality central to Robert’s success is his dogged commitment to working out. Grandpa once said to Robert that developing all those muscles might slow you down as a runner. While Grandpa believed that somehow power and speed worked against each other, Robert proved that power compensates for speed when 11 other guys are trying to knock you down. Robert was a power running back for Somerville. His 5’ 10”, 185-pound frame does not adequately display the muscles that ripple below the surface. When displaying his war paint, Robert was a fearsome spectacle as shown below in Somerville’s State Championship Game in Rutger’s Stadium, Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 7:00pm. Grandpa was there!
Robert’s best game of the season was probably against Ewing, their first-round game in the division’s State Championship. The press went wild with Robert’s performance in that game. It is shown here (May be a little heavy on the war paint, Robert!) as published by the Somerville Times:
SOMERVILLE — Second-seeded Somerville came into Friday night’s frigid contest with seventh-seeded Ewing as a heavy favorite in the first round of the NJSIAA/Wilson Sporting Goods Central Jersey, Group 3 playoffs and it was clear early on that they were too much for a young Ewing team to handle.
The Pioneers won by a final score of 51-12, fighting through the frigid temperatures and wind chill to oust the Blue Devils with a relentless run game led by junior Robert Fiorentino, who finished with 23 carries for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
“We knew at the beginning of the week, we just had to be physical, come out fast,” Fiorentino said. “A lot of teams don’t like the cold, but we thrive in it. It was a lot of fun.
“At the end of the day, playing in the cold is fun. It’s all you can think about, it’s playoff football.”
Temperatures were in the 20s during the game, and combined with wind chill, it made for an environment that allowed Fiorentino and the Pioneer running backs to pound the Blue Devils possession after possession.
“Anytime you get wind like this and temperatures like this, you’re not going to be able to throw the ball consistently,” Somerville coach Jeff Vanderbeek said. “So we knew we’d have to run the ball and we did. We challenged the offensive line to come off the ball, and they played very well.”
Somerville advances to next week’s semifinals to face the winner of Saturday’s game between third-seeded Monmouth and sixth-seeded Carteret. After a slow start to the second half and some special teams issues, even in a blowout, Vanderbeek sees some room for improvement going into next week’s game.
“There’s no doubt,” Vanderbeek said. “Football is a game where there’s always something you can get better at. We certainly need to do better on special teams, clean some things up. But I was very happy with the effort on both sides of the ball.”
If the Pioneers can stick to the plan that has gotten them to 9-1 on the season, however, their coach believes they’ll be alright.
“It was just, our guys, they had a good week of practice, they were workmanlike,” Vanderbeek said. “They stuck to their guns, ran the ball very well, which was what we needed to do. And we got up by a couple of touchdowns and then it was a different ballgame.”
Ewing’s season is over, but for a young team, they showed fight right until the end. Among the highlights of the night were a 69-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyrique Alston to receiver Jahed Evans, two recovered onside kicks and an 80-yard kickoff return touchdown by senior Dennis Garrison.
Ewing coach Drew Besler saw a bit of a blueprint for future success across the field from his team on Friday night.
“What they (Somerville) are right now is a very good offense, and they execute,” Besler said. “And that’s where we’re trying to get to is that spot. Back-to-back state playoffs, (Ewing) really can’t hang their heads. And I know some people will say some things about the records of teams we played, but whatever, man. We fought through a lot of adversity this year, and I’m proud to be the coach of these kids.”
The Pioneers will have about a day to enjoy their victory before figuring out who their next opponent will be in a week, but Fiorentino and his teammates are ready to get right back at it.
“Same old thing, back to the grind,” he said. “That’s our motto for this year, the grind. Just come out tomorrow for film, study film, practice hard.”
Somerville went on to the semifinals and finals, winning a state championship from their opponent, who was proudly going for their fifth consecutive championship.
Robert’s year end 2017 statistics show the following: Enough to make his blood relatives proud. His father requires lead boots to keep him safely attached to the ground.
2017 Football year statistics:
Rushing attempts: 158
Rushing yards: 980
Rushing yards per game: 81.7
Rushing touchdowns: 8
Receiving yards: 283
Receiving touchdowns: 1
Two-point conversions: 10
Total points: 74
Keep up the good work, Robert.
Your namesake, Grandpa