CRANFORD and KENILWORTH – Cranford came oh so close last year.
Brearley was frustrated as well, out in the first round.
Both Union County teams – sparked by stellar returning senior quarterbacks – came back strong this season, perhaps stronger than ever.
That, we shall see, in two weeks.
For now, Cranford and Brearley made history of sorts. For the first time two teams from Union County will enter championship games with 11-0 records.
Those two teams happen to be the Cougars and the Bears.
Both rolled again Friday night in sectional semifinal round play, with Cranford cruising to a 48-14 win over Ridgefield Park at Memorial Field, while Brearley came back to best Belvidere 34-24 at Ward Field.
Both teams earned the top seeds in their sections and then took care of business, winning their quarterfinal and semifinal round games at home to reach the finals.
Cranford reached the North 2, Group 3 final for the second straight season and for the third time in five. The Cougars are also 11-0 for the second straight season, seeking – once again – to produce the program’s first 12-0 mark.
Cranford won North 2, Group 3 for the first time in 2011 and then last year fell in the final.
Brearley reached its first North 2, Group 1 final since 2006. That season nine years ago the Bears became the first Union County team to finish 12-0 when they captured North 2, Group 1 for the fifth time in the playoff era and for the first time since 1991.
While Cranford will scout Saturday’s West Essex-at-Chatham game to find out who it will play in two weeks, Brearley already knows its opponent. The Bears will face second-seeded Hoboken in the North 2, Group 1 championship game. The Red Wings outlasted sixth-seeded Weequahic 30-22 Friday night in Hudson County.
The championship game schedule should be released sometime on Sunday.
Cranford defeated West Essex 35-7 at home in a 2014 N2, G3 semifinal.
Brearley head coach Scott Miller, who last week garnered victory No. 100, became the first Union County coach to go 12-0. Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier just missed joining that elite group of coaches – which also includes John Liberato twice at Summit and Kevin Kostibos once at Summit. Rosenmeier gets another shot in two weeks.
Everything wasn’t always coming up roses for Rosenmeier after he was named Cranford’s head coach beginning in 2005. Rosenmeier’s record his first six seasons was 30-30, which included three winning seasons, two losing and one .500. Cranford never made the playoffs, but did go 6-0 in consolation games.
Since 2011, the Cougars have now gone 46-9 (.836) the past five seasons, including a playoff record of 7-3 that includes the program’s first two championship games and also the program’s first championship in the playoff era.
Cranford has won playoff games in five consecutive seasons now, which is also a program record.
Cranford has also won 17 straight games at home, including four playoff victories – two last year and two this year.
The Cougars went 6-0 at home this year, 7-0 last year and 4-0 in 2013.
Cranford’s last loss at Memorial Field was on Nov. 30, 2012, a 35-21 setback to Palisades Park in a North 2, Group 3 semifinal. That was Cranford’s last game that season.
Against visiting Ridgefield Park Friday night, it took Cranford a little while to get on track, but once the Cougars got rolling their Bergen County opponent could not keep up.
Cranford scored quick on its second possession, with senior quarterback Jack Schetelich breaking contain and then running 41 yards for the game’s first points. The two-play drive started from the Ridgefield Park 43 after the Scarlets, who finished their season at 7-4, punted the ball back to the Cougars.
Cranford’s next drive began at its own 35. A 31-yard pass to Sean Leonard put the Cougars back in Ridgefield Park territory.
Schetelich later in the drive ran for a 21-yard gain and then two plays after that picked up a bad snap and then ran straight ahead into the end zone – untouched – for his second score.
Right before the half Schetelich engineered a seven-play, 58-yard scoring drive that took almost three minutes. He capped it off by firing a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide open senior end Joe Norton in the middle of the end zone.
Cranford outscored Ridgefield Park four touchdowns to two in the second half.
The Cougars were playing at home in a Friday night sectional semifinal for the third time in four seasons and for the second straight season. They are now 2-1 in those home semifinals.
Brearley led Belvidere 20-16 at intermission. The Bears trailed 16-6 – Belvidere followed up its first-half touchdowns each with two-point conversions – before Brearley made its comeback.
After getting the game to 16-13, Brearley senior Brian Resende returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown to give Brearley the lead for good.
Lifted by the play of senior quarterback Sebastian Montesdeoca, Brearley scored its final two touchdowns on its first two second-half possessions.
Montesdeoca scored on Brearley’s third second-half play from scrimmage, breaking through a hole and then running down the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown.
Montesdeoca concluded Brearley’s second possession when – after a timeout and on fourth-and-two from the Belvidere 47 – he hit Anthony Primavera at the 30. The senior running back was wide open and completely behind the defense when he caught the ball. Primavera then raced into the end zone to complete a 47-yard pass play.
Belvidere made things a bit scary for Brearley when it scored a third eight-point touchdown to pull to within 10 points with 5:56 to go.
Things could have been even worse for Brearley had it not been for a very heads up play by Montesdeoca. Back to punt from around his own 25-yard line, Montesdeoca saw the snap go straight over his head. He quickly went back and picked up the ball and then kicked it, surprisingly getting off a very good punt to exactly midfield.
The County Seaters drove to the Brearley 27 before senior defensive back Evan Collier iced the game for the Bears with an interception at his own 15.
Four running plays later and Brearley was making plans to play in its first state championship game in nine years.
“To go from being 2-8 my freshman year to this is just amazing,” Montesdeoca said. “This was my last time playing on this field and now we’re going to be playing in the championship game.”
Brearley opened its 2015 season with a 28-14 win at Belvidere. Last year the Bears opened at home against Belvidere and won 27-22. The Bears then closed a 5-4-1 2014 campaign with a 19-8 loss at Belvidere in the N2, G1 quarterfinals.
In order to beat Belvidere for the third time in four tries the past two seasons, Brearley had to reach deep down in the first half after falling behind by 10 points.
“When we got down we had to do a better job of moving the ball down field,” Montesdeoca said. “Brian Resende had a big score for us on defense and in the second half we started to open some things up.”
Brearley almost played Hoboken in the 2006 N2, G1 final. Verona upset Hoboken 7-3 in the semifinals.
This time the Bears will face the Red Wings, with Brearley seeking to capture its sixth N2, G1 title in the playoff era.
Hoboken won N2, G1 in 2012, defeating Roselle Park in the final, and again in 2013, downing Shabazz in the title game.
When asked when he thought Brearley might be on its way to producing the kind of season it has so far, Montesdeoca said this: “for me it was right after our win at our rival, Roselle Park. I thought we could do what we’ve done after that game.”
CRANFORD COUGARS (11-0)
(A) Cranford 24, Warren Hills 23
(H) Cranford 41, Somerville 14
(H) Cranford 41, Roselle 7
(A) Cranford 42, Summit 0
(A) Cranford 49, Voorhees 24
(H) Cranford 51, Hillside 17
(A) Cranford 28, Delaware Valley 21
(H) Cranford 35, Gov. Livingston 20
(A) Cranford 50, North Plainfield 8
(H) Cranford 56, Voorhees 7
(H) Cranford 48, Ridgefield Park 14
Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,
11th season, 76-39 (.661)
Section: North 2, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Raritan 6-0, champs
Points for: 465
Points against: 155
BREARLEY BEARS (11-0)
(A) Brearley 28, Belvidere 14
(H) Brearley 30, South Hunterdon 6
(H) Brearley 27, Dayton 14
(A) Brearley 20, Roselle Park 10
(H) Brearley 39, Manville 0
(H) Brearley 35, Pingry 6
(A) Brearley 35, Roselle 21
(A) Brearley 25, Bound Brook 0
(H) Brearley 27, New Providence 19
(H) Brearley 35, North Arlington 6
(H) Brearley 34, Belvidere 24
Head coach: Scott Miller,
14th season, 101-45-1 (.692)
Section: North 2, Group 1
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Valley 8-0, champs
Points for: 335
Points against: 119