CRANFORD – Aaron Cancio, a senior who played on the junior varsity a year ago, made the very most of his first varsity start for the host Cougars.
Cancio didn’t set out to make the kind of immediate impact he produced. He just wanted to do his job. He just wanted to make sure his assignment was covered.
Cancio did so in a big way.
The right cornerback intercepted North Plainfield quarterback Nick Cherasaro’s third pass of the game, returning it 30 yards to the NP 18.
One play later – courtesy of an 18-yard, low-to-the-ground touchdown run by senior Brian McGovern – the Cougars quickly had a two-touchdown lead.
Cancio, wearing No. 40, followed up his theft with five pass breakups over the course of the game, three in the first half and two in the second.
Cancio performed his job well and against a quality passing attack that saw Cherasaro throw three TD passes and complete throws to four different receivers.
While visiting North Plainfield did have success offensively, it could not match the firepower Cranford produced, with the Cougars scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions.
Cranford neatly led from start-to-finish – the Cougars did not have one single turnover – and scored two touchdowns in each quarter en route to a commanding 56-35 win over North Plainfield in Friday night’s Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division game contested at Memorial Field.
Cranford evened its overall and division records at 2-2, while North Plainfield lost for the third straight time to fall to 1-3. The Canucks are 0-3 in the Mountain Division.
While players such as Cherasaro, McGovern and Cranford senior quarterback Brian Oblachinski put up big numbers offensively, Cancio’s determined effort in Cranford’s secondary was highly-visible through a consistent, intermittent, game-long rainfall.
“I keep my eyes open and just stay in my lane,” said Cancio, describing his positioning on the field. “Their quarterback had the ability to throw short and deep. I just wanted to stay close to the receiver I was covering and make sure he was marked.”
Cancio didn’t make it easy for any of Cherasaro’s receivers to catch the ball his way. At one point in the second half Cherasaro stopped throwing the ball to Cancio’s side.
Here’s what Cancio said about his interception: “I saw the ball go over the receiver’s head, caught it and just ran.”
“Aaron worked his way in and had an opportunity against Rahway last week,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “He showed promise and got another opportunity – as a starter for the first time – tonight.
“Aaron patiently waited his turn and when he got his opportunity against North Plainfield he showed what he can do.
“Last week he was thrown into the fire against Rahway and was beaten a couple of times. Cornerbacks, sort of like relief pitchers in baseball, need to have a short memory. He forgot about that game, focused on this one and played really well for us.”
Here’s a look at the offensive numbers Oblachinski, McGovern and Cherasaro produced:
Cranford senior QB Brian Oblachinski: rushing – 21 carries for 252 yards and 4 TDs (3 of them in the second half); passing – 7-for-9 for 79 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Cranford senior RB Brian McGovern: rushing – 13 carries for 129 yards and 2 TDs.
North Plainfield quarterback Nick Cherasaro: rushing – 13 carries for 83 yards and 2 TDs; passing – 23-for-34 for 348 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. Four receivers caught at least one pass, including junior Rj Hunter (No. 2), senior Dennis Cooper (No. 3), sophomore Nas Robinson (No. 7) and junior Brandon Smith (No. 8).
Cranford senior running back Sean Bryson also scored two touchdowns, both of them coming in the second quarter – the first on a run and the second on a pass.
Producing sacks for Cranford were senior middle linebacker Patrick Hoey (2) and sophomore end Rob Schork.
“I was pleased with how physical we were tonight,” Rosenmeier said. “Offensively, we’re still trying to find our identity. We’re still learning to grind it out.
“Brian had some nice runs for us and we tried to get him the ball as much as possible since Ryan Bakie was banged up a bit.”
North Plainfield simply could not contain Oblachinski as well, which led to the Canucks falling behind very early and staying behind the entire game, despite scoring five touchdowns.
Oblachinski was able to break contain almost at will and many times zig-zagged his way to huge chunks of yardage. As a result, four of those times he ended up in the end zone.
“We have to continue to get better,” Rosenmeier said. “We’re getting there.”
NOTES: Cranford is now 49-11 in its last 60 games.
The Cougars will remain at home for their fifth game as they will host Raritan Division foe Scotch Plains next Friday night. Scotch Plains is 0-3 and hosts 3-0 Summit Saturday.
Cranford’s next road game is at Summit Oct. 14.
North Plainfield is scheduled to host 0-4 Voorhees next Friday night in Mountain Division play.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-MOUNTAIN DIVISION
North Plainfield (1-3, 0-3) 7 6 7 15 – 35
Cranford (2-2, 2-2) 14 14 14 14 – 56
CRANFORD – Brian Oblachinski 36 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 7-0)
9 plays, 84 yards, 2:54 used
CRANFORD – Brian McGovern 18 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 14-0)
1 play, 18 yards, :12 used
Cranford capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Aaron Cancio.
NORTH PLAINFIELD – Rj Hunter 22 pass from Nick Cherasaro, Chris Cooney kick
8 plays, 80 yards, 2:52 used
CRANFORD – Sean Bryson 15 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 21-7)
8 plays, 60 yards, 3:01 used
NORTH PLAINFIELD – Nick Cherasaro 4 run, kick failed (C 21-13)
9 plays, 67 yards, 2:15 used
CRANFORD – Sean Bryson 20 pass from Brian Oblachinski, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 28-13)
6 plays, 77 yards, 1:49 used
CRANFORD – Brian Oblachinski 13 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 35-13)
4 plays, 76 yards, 1:45 used
NORTH PLAINFIELD – Nick Cherasaro 24 run, Chris Cooney kick (C 35-20)
3 plays, 80 yards, :57 used
CRANFORD – Brian Oblachinski 22 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 42-20)
5 plays, 75 yards, 1:55 used
NORTH PLAINFIELD – Brandon Smith 32 pass from Nick Cherasaro,
Chris Cooney kick (C 42-27)
6 plays, 79 yards, 1:44 used
CRANFORD – Brian Oblachinski 31 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 49-27)
7 plays, 65 yards, 2:57 used
CRANFORD – Brian McGovern 27 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 56-27)
1 play, 27 yards, :12 used
NORTH PLAINFIELD – Dennis Cooper 27 pass from Nick Cherasaro,
Brandon Smith pass from Nick Cherasaro, (C 56-35)
7 plays, 80 yards, 2:19 used