UNION – In 1985 it was the “46 defense” that was a big part of the Chicago Bears going 18-1 and winning the Super Bowl for the first and only time.
Ladies and gentlemen, thirty years later I present you with the “50 offense” courtesy of the Cranford Cougars.
For the fourth time this season the best offense in Union County reached 50 points – scoring touchdowns on six straight possessions (three following turnovers) in the first half after a blocked punt thwarted its first – en route to capturing its second state championship in five seasons.
Top-seeded Cranford’s more-than-decisive 50-23 triumph over sixth-seeded Chatham in Friday night’s North 2, Group 3 championship game at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium was the final step in the program’s first-ever 12-0 season.
LAST 5 NORTH 2, GROUP 3 CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES:
2015: Cranford 50, Chatham 23 – at Kean University
2014: Parsippany Hills 20, Cranford 13 – at MetLife Stadium
2013: Summit 16, Parsippany Hills 13 – at Kean University
Cranford lost in the semifinals.
2012: Summit 30, Palisades Park 0 – at MetLife Stadium
Cranford lost in the semifinals.
2011: Cranford 27, Parsippany Hills 0 – at Kean University
After falling to Parsippany Hills 20-13 in last year’s N2, G3 final at MetLife Stadium, favored and top-seeded Cranford had to settle for the program’s first 11-1 finish.
Not again this time.
There was no way the much-too-fast-and-experienced Cranford Cougars were going to be denied on this night.
Cranford senior lineman Kevin Doran summed it up best to his teammates while they celebrated afterwards, proclaiming emphatically “we finished the job!”
Cranford averaged 42 points last year, setting all kinds of offensive records. Cranford averaged 43 this season, finishing with a program best 515 points in 12 victories.
The offense was led by senior quarterback Jack Schetelich, who as a two-year starter produced an outstanding 23-1 mark. He also won a game in relief as a sophomore two years ago.
Against Chatham, Schetelich – arguably the best offensive player in Union County this season – threw four touchdown passes (two to senior Joe Norton and one each to junior Ryan Bakie and senior Sean Leonard) and ran for two scores.
Standout all-purpose player Bakie scored Cranford’s other touchdown on a 30-yard run in the second quarter.
Chatham senior quarterback Alex Sands threw touchdown passes to Luke Sukiennik in the first half and to Ryan Barnett in the second. Tim Adams kicked a 27-yard field goal to put Chatham on the board for the first time, cutting Cranford’s lead to 14-3 in the first quarter. Senior running back Chris Kinder scored Chatham’s first of two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a one-yard run.
Chatham has nothing to be ashamed of and finished a fine season with a record of 9-3. Chatham won three times as many games as it had the three previous years combined. This was the program’s first winning season in four years and first appearance in a state championship game in 10.
Cranford is now 47-9 (.839) since 2011. In the past five years Cranford has won playoff games in all of them, is 9-3 in the playoffs and has reached three state championship games, winning two of them.
Cranford is now 2-1 in state championship games, all in N2, G3 and all of them since 2011.
The sting of last year’s loss to Parsippany Hills has finally left the Cranford players. Cranford went 3-0 in the playoffs for the first time.
“That was the worst I felt in my life,” said Cranford’s 6-6, 280-pound Penn State-bound senior lineman Will Fries, referring to Cranford losing in the final last year. “This team, we put the hard work in that was necessary to get back here.”
“This is a great moment,” Schetelich said. “When we lost to Parsippany Hills last year I really felt bad for the seniors.
“The joy of winning this game outweighs the losing feeling we had last year because we won this game.”
Cranford’s first two touchdowns were set up by interceptions from senior Chris Szekeres, the second one on a tipped pass.
As a matter of fact, Cranford produced three touchdowns totaling 23 points off of three Chatham first-half turnovers – two interceptions and a lost fumble on a kickoff return.
“It’s always good to get turnovers,” said Szekeres, who was playing in his third game back after missing six with an injury.
Szekeres picked a great time to come up with his first two-interception game.
“We had a lot of confidence in our defense,” Szekeres said.
Whether it was Szekeres on defense or teammate Lucas Ramadan on the same unit coming up with three quarterback sacks or it was Schetelich running up the middle or slashing east-west, Cranford’s speed was simply too much for Chatham to keep up with.
Schetelich felt that phase of the game could benefit Cranford while watching Chatham on film.
“We saw that they were a tremendously good team, but there were things we felt we could exploit,” Schetelich said. “Things especially in our passing game.”
Too many Cranford receivers were wide open, yards behind Chatham defenders. Norton, who left the game for good early in the third quarter after getting hit hard attempting to catch a pass over the middle, was wide open on the right side for his 39-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
“Our guys really ran great,” Schetelich said. “The first interception was huge. After that we played Cranford football from that point on.”
UNION COUNTY’S 12-0 TEAMS:
2015: Cranford, won North 2, Group 3
Head coach Erik Rosenmeier.
2015: Westfield, won North 2, Group 5
Head coach Jim DeSarno.
2013: Summit, won North 2, Group 3
Head coach Kevin Kostibos.
2012: Summit, won North 2, Group 3
Head coach John Liberato.
2009: Summit, won North 2, Group 2
Head coach: John Liberato,
2006: Brearley, won North 2, Group 1
Head coach Scott Miller.
Cranford 11th-year head coach Erik Rosenmeier has now won two state championships and Friday night became the second Union County coach in 24 hours to complete his first 12-0 season. Rosenmeier also became just the fifth Union County coach to lead his team to a 12-0 finish.
“There was no guarantee that we were going to be back,” Rosenmeier said. “However, it’s a better feeling now than you think.”
Cranford won 10 of its 12 games by double digits, including all three playoff contests. Cranford is a juggernaut right now and despite losing talented players to graduation such as Villanova-bound Schetelich, Fries, Norton and the rest of the senior class, there are enough standout juniors and underclassmen to keep this thing going beginning next season.
“Even though we won some of the games we did by the scores we did, the whole season is still a struggle to get to this point, so I’m very proud of our team,” Rosenmeier said. “We’ve reached great heights on the shoulders of other great people.
“Our kids get the training and understanding of what it takes. They rose to the occasion.”
Watching No. 10 (Schetelich) run the offense the last two years is something Rosenmeier will cherish for a long time.
“What can you say, he’s an outstanding player and a quality kid,” Rosenmeier said. “We knew he could run, but he really developed as a passer.”
NOTES: Both of Cranford’s state championships in the playoff era have come at Kean and both by 27 points. Cranford’s first title was a 27-0 win over Parsippany Hills in the 2011 N2, G3 final.
For the first time, Union County has two teams that finished with 12-0 marks in the same season.
There’s a chance for a third when top-seeded Brearley (11-0) clashes with second-seeded Hoboken (8-3) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. North 2, Group 1 final at Kean.
If Brearley wins, Union County will have three state champions in the same year for the first time since 1993 when Union three-peated in North 2, Group 4, Summit captured North 2, Group 2 and Roselle Park repeated in North 2, Group 1.
NORTH 2, GROUP 3 FINAL AT KEAN UNIVERSITY
6-CHATHAM (9-3) 3 6 0 14 – 23
1-CRANFORD (12-0) 14 29 7 0 – 50
CRANFORD – Jack Schetelich 1 run, Joe Norton kick (Cranford 7-0)
8 plays, 54 yards, 2:40 used
Cranford capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Chris Szekeres.
CRANFORD – Joe Norton 15 pass from Jack Schetelich,
Joe Norton kick (Cranford 14-0)
1 play, 15 yards, :05 used
Cranford capitalized on a turnover – another interception by Chris Szekeres.
CHATHAM – FG Tim Adams 27 (Cranford 14-3)
6 plays, from own 35 to Cranford 10, 2:12 used
CRANFORD – Ryan Bakie 20 pass from Jack Schetelich,
Joe Norton kick (Cranford 21-3)
6 plays, 63 yards, 2:34 used
CHATHAM – Luke Sukiennik 2 pass from Alex Sands, kick failed
3 plays, 28 yards, 1:06 used
CRANFORD – Jack Schetelich 1 run, Joe Norton kick (Cranford 28-9)
4 plays, 59 yards, 1:05 used
CRANFORD – Joe Norton 39 pass from Jack Schetelich,
Sean Leonard run (Cranford 36-9)
1 play, 39 yards, :07 used
Cranford capitalized on a turnover – a fumble recovery after
The ball was stripped from a Chatham player by Cranford’s Lucas Ramadan.
CRANFORD – Ryan Bakie 30 run, Joe Norton kick (Cranford 43-9)
3 plays, 71 yards, 1:26 used
CRANFORD – Sean Leonard 24 pass from Jack Schetelich,
Brian Oblachinski kick (Cranford 50-9)
Running clock begins with 6:45 remaining in third quarter.
CHATHAM – Chris Kinder 1 run, Tim Adams kick (Cranford 50-16)
Running clock stopped with 5:14 left in game.
CHATHAM – Ryan Barnett 21 pass from Alex Sands,
Tim Adams kick (Cranford 50-23)