SUMMIT – Brian Oblachinski is a key part of a Cranford offense that came into Friday night’s game averaging 36 points.
The returning senior starter is also a member of the secondary on defense, a unit that head coach Erik Rosenmeier said needed to step up.
The Cougars, sparked by one of the season’s most dominating single performances, picked a perfect time to upgrade their effort against the pass.
Oblachinski was the leader of that improvement, intercepting two passes – of which he returned the second for a touchdown – and batting away a fourth-down pass right near the goal line during the only time Summit reached Cranford territory in the first half.
Oh yeah and, by the way, all Oblachinski – from his quarterback position – did on offense was rush for 215 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown and complete seven of 10 passes for 115 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.
To say that Cranford played its most complete game of the season would be an understatement. To say that Oblachinski helped would be a bigger one.
Cranford came to Summit’s Tatlock Field Friday night and thoroughly dominated a Hilltopper team that was 5-0 and averaging 34 points.
The Cougars scored on four of their five possessions in the first half en route to an impressive 37-7 Mid-State 38 Conference non-division triumph.
Cranford won for the third straight time to improve to 4-2 and in the process gained a large amount of power points toward qualifying in Central Jersey, Group 3 for the first time. Cranford’s remaining playoff qualifying games are at home against Governor Livingston and at Hillside.
Summit, which saw starting sophomore quarterback Jackson Tyler leave the game in the second quarter and not return, fell to 5-1. Skyler Schluter, also a sophomore, finished the game at QB and did a valiant job, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver DJ Nichols in the fourth quarter for Summit’s only score.
After Cranford took the opening kickoff and marched from its own 16 to the Summit nine, junior placekicker Valentino Ambrosio kicked the first of three field goals in three attempts, this first one good from 27 to give Cranford a 3-0 lead. More importantly, Cranford used nearly six minutes with the drive.
Summit only had the ball twice in the first quarter, running only eight offensive plays for 35 yards and two first downs.
All coming on a run right before the half by senior running back Sam Zanelli, the Hilltoppers managed just 27 yards of offense in the second quarter for a total of only 62 at the half.
Summit was limited to just 103 yards of total offense entering the fourth quarter.
“We had a great week of practice preparing for their offense and it was just a matter of us staying focused and reading our assignments,” said Oblachinski, who will play baseball at Montclair State.
Oblachinski had 131 yards rushing and 85 passing at the half and then broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and returned an interception 23 yards – untouched – for his second score in the fourth.
He completed touchdown passes to Sean Bryson in the first quarter and to Ryan Bakie in the second.
The Cranford line did a great job of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and providing huge holes for Oblachinski and senior running back Brian McGovern to run through. McGovern carried 14 times for 68 yards.
“Offensively, we came out ready to go,” Oblachinski said. “They have some big kids on defense, but we came out fired up and were confident we could move the ball.”
Summit came into the game off a dramatic come-from-behind road victory at GL and was averaging 34 points.
“Basically, you have to play base defense and then it’s a matter of execution,” Cranford defensive coordinator Joe Hubert said.
Tyler, who carried four times for 17 yards and completed three of eight passes for 24, moved Summit to the Cranford 32 in the second quarter when his team was down 10-0.
On the final play of Summit’s third possession, Tyler threw the ball to the right side of the end zone, where Oblachinski got in front of the Summit receiver intended to catch the pass. Oblachinski then stuck out his right arm and knocked the pass down, halting the drive.
That was the last play Tyler was in on before being replaced by Schluter.
“We knew they would mix it up (run and pass), so we had to stop what they do,” Hubert said. “We were prepared.”
Hubert also pointed to the return of junior defensive backs Elijah Arroyo and Joshua Cadet back in the lineup from injuries that helped boost Cranford’s play in the secondary.
“We just got those two players back, who played late in the game,” Hubert said. “They have to earn their playing time again.”
As far as Oblachinski’s effort on defense, it was nothing that Hubert or Cranford had not seen before.
“As a sophomore Brian led the team and maybe the county in interceptions,” Hubert said. “He’s just a smart kid who knows where to be and many times where the ball will be.”
One of Cranford’s most dominant victories among many in recent years gives the Cougars that much more momentum going into next week’s home game against GL.
“We just needed to catch up,” Hubert said of Cranford’s effort on defense, especially against the pass.
If Cranford continues to play the way it did against Summit, opposing teams will continue to have a very difficult time catching up to the Cougars.
NOTES: Bakie had four receptions, all in the first half, for 41 yards and one TD. Bryson had the other three Cranford receptions for 74 yards one score.
Summit senior running back Matt Murdock was limited to just seven yards on two carries in the first half.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-NON DIVISION GAME
CRANFORD (4-2) 10 10 7 10 – 37
SUMMIT (5-1) 0 0 0 7 – 7
CRANFORD – FG Valentino Ambrosio 27 (C 3-0)
11 plays, from own 16 to Summit 9, 5:38 used
CRANFORD – Sean Bryson 13 pass from Brian Oblachinski,
Valentino Ambrosio kick, (C 10-0)
5 plays, 76 yards, 2:28 used
CRANFORD – FG Valentino Ambrosio 22 (C 13-0)
9 plays, from own 32 to Summit 5, 3:55 used
CRANFORD – Ryan Bakie 15 pass from Brian Oblachinski,
Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 20-0)
3 plays, 54 yards, :57 used
CRANFORD – Brian Oblachinski 67 run, Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 27-0)
4 plays, 92 yards, 1:36 used
SUMMIT – DJ Jackson 10 pass from Skyler Schlulter, Jack Johnson kick (C 27-7)
10 plays, 60 yards, 3:10 used
CRANFORD – FG Valentino Ambrosio 18 (C 30-7)
8 plays, from own 48 to Summit 1, 3:25 used
CRANFORD – Brian Oblachinski 23 interception return,
Valentino Ambrosio kick (C 37-7)