All 17 Union County squads were scheduled to play on the same weekend -this past Friday and Saturday – for the final time in 2016.
Here’s what happened:
On Friday night, Cranford continued to roll, Summit bounced back, Linden produced a much-needed victory and New Providence snapped a rare eight-game losing streak.
Union fell on the road again, this time to a quality Ridge squad, while Brearley was bested at Bound Brook, Johnson thwarted at Somerville and Hillside halted at Delaware Valley.
On Saturday, as predicted, Elizabeth and Rahway – on the road – and Westfield – at home – rolled to their next victories.
There were a number of interesting story lines out of the above results.
Tough decision for Dayton: Dayton forfeited its game at Roselle, scheduled to be played Saturday (Oct. 22) at Roselle’s Arminio Field. You saw this coming and should not have been surprised. Bound Brook made the same move for its game scheduled there Nov. 5.
Can you blame either Group 1 school for making that decision, based solely on the issue of player safety?
Group 2 Roselle (now 7-0) is having the kind of season where the Rams – who presently lead the power point standings in Central Jersey, Group 2 – have a 61-54 win at Group 2 Bernards and whose last two games – at Group 2 New Providence and at Group 4 Belleville – resulted in 61-9 and 60-0 triumphs.
Would it have benefitted an injury-riddled 1-5 Dayton team – coming off a 47-0 home loss to Group 2 Hillside – to have gone to Roselle and lost something like 60-0 or 61-0?
60-0 is not high school football. 60-0 in football is not even sports, where you need a somewhat level playing field.
Although Bound Brook, at 6-1, is headed to the North 2, Group 1 playoffs, the Crusaders, apparently with injury concerns of their own, feel the same way.
Dayton is scheduled to play at Bound Brook this Friday (Oct. 28) at LaMonte Field. According to Dayton head coach Dominic Cuniglio, who said he could not comment on the matter and referred to Springfield Superintendent of Schools Michael Davino, we won’t know until later this week if Dayton will play again this season.
Cuniglio’s younger brother Mario is the head coach at Belleville, which was the last team to play Roselle.
The Bulldogs have regular season games scheduled at Bound Brook and home against South Hunterdon Nov. 4. Since Dayton will most likely not make the playoffs in North 2, Group 1 (Dayton is presently 10th in the power point standings), the Bulldogs would then be scheduled to play a sectional consolation game the weekend of Nov. 11-12 if they are healthy enough to do so.
Union’s schedule continues to be quite challenging: Although Union appears to be on its way to making the field again in North 2, Group 5, the Farmers ran into another buzzsaw on the road. Ridge led from start to finish in topping Union 34-21 Friday night in Basking Ridge.
Ridge won its fifth straight to improve to 6-1, while Union fell for the second time in three games and slipped to 4-2.
Before they faced off Friday night in Somerset County, Ridge and Union had just one loss each – both by two touchdowns at undefeated Westfield.
Ridge is presently third in the power point standings in North 2, Group 5 and will host Elizabeth this Friday night, Oct. 28, in its eighth and final qualifying game. The Red Devils won the section in 2013, defeating Union 48-13 in the final played at Rutgers.
Union will host N2, G5 power points leader Bridgewater-Raritan (7-0) this Friday night and will then play at Hunterdon Central (presently 4-3) on Nov. 4.
BR has already clinched the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Delaware Division title for the second straight season.
Hunterdon Central, situated in Central Jersey, Group 5 this season, has won two straight and is favored to win at home against 1-6 Watchung Hills this Friday night in its eighth and final playoff qualifying contest.
Should Union lose its final two playoff qualifying games to BR and HC, the Farmers should still make the grade in North 2, Group 5. However, the Farmers do not want to enter the first round of the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, while their playoff fortunes would be bolstered by getting at least a split of their final two qualifying games.
Linden trying to sneak in N2, G5 field: Linden (2-4) just snapped a three-game losing streak with a 21-14 win at Watchung Hills Friday night. The Tigers are presently ninth in the power point standings in North 2, Group 5, but should pass Columbia (1-6) as the eighth and final seed if they defeat Plainfield (0-7) at home this Friday night and Franklin (presently 0-6) at home Nov. 4.
Columbia’s final playoff qualifying game is at Morris Knolls (4-3) this Saturday, Oct. 29.
In Essex County, Columbia’s only win is over East Orange Campus.
East Orange Campus just handed undefeated Bloomfield its first loss Saturday.
It should be noted that teams do not need to have records of .500 or better anymore through their eight qualifying games to make the playoffs in their section.
Westfield’s state-best winning streak now at 20: Westfield is 7-0, second in the N2, G5 power point standings behind the team it defeated in the final last year, BR, and has a Union County-best 78 points against so far, with six of seven wins produced by double-digit margins.
The repeat Watchung Division champions have their bye week this weekend and will then play their final playoff qualifying game at neighboring rival Scotch Plains Nov. 5. Scotch Plains is 0-7 and coming off a 1-9 season in which the only win was its season-ending consolation game.
Rahway at Summit this Saturday a big showdown: Raritan Division champion Summit (6-1) bounced back from its only loss to Cranford by producing another big fourth quarter comeback on the road in downing North Plainfield 46-42 Friday night at Krausche Field. The Hilltoppers are presently second in the power point standings in North 2, Group 4.
Rahway (5-1) also bounced back from its only setback – at home to Somerville – by winning at Scotch Plains 54-35 Saturday. That’s the same score Summit won at Scotch Plains by on Oct. 1. Rahway is seventh in the CJ, G3 power point standings.
Rahway’s final playoff qualifying game is at home against North Plainfield Nov. 4 on their new turf field or Nov. 5 on the grass at Veterans Field.
Rahway is in CJ, G3 for the third straight year and qualified last year with a 3-5 record at the cutoff.
CRANFORD NOW EXCELLING ON ALL LEVELS, DEFENSE INCLUDED
Cranford, which entered its 2016 campaign with a 20-game regular season winning streak, found out right away that it could not rest on its laurels. Last year’s undefeated, untied North 2, Group 3 champions – producing the program’s first 12-0 record – saw a three-point halftime lead turn into a 41-17 Opening Night loss to a visiting Somerville squad that entered with just four wins combined in its previous four seasons.
After a 35-0 shutout win at home over Voorhees, Cranford was sloppy and paid for turning the ball over in a 40-34 loss at an improved Rahway squad.
Just like that Cranford, coming off 12-0 and 11-1 seasons, was 1-2.
The Cougars rebounded by producing expected home wins over North Plainfield (56-35) and Scotch Plains (40-14). However, Cranford was still giving up too many points.
“Our defense has been good against the run,” head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “We need to do a better job against the pass.”
Cranford turned the corner defensively at Summit last weekend, posting a dominating 37-7 triumph sparked by senior quarterback-cornerback Brian Oblachinski.
While Summit’s only touchdown did come through the air, the Hilltoppers did not score until early in the fourth quarter and when they were behind 27-0.
Cranford limited Summit to just 103 yards of total offense entering the fourth quarter. Oblachinski batted away a fourth down pass in front of the Cranford end zone in the first half and in the second half produced two interceptions, returning the second one 23 yards untouched for six points.
Cranford followed that up with another convincing triumph, this time a 49-7 home victory over Governor Livingston Friday night.
“GL was a concern because they are good up front and on offense can hold on to the ball for long periods of time,” Rosenmeier said. “They did that early on, which was their game plan.”
GL made it a 14-7 game in the second quarter when running back Will Nicholson broke free for a 69-yard gain. Turner Haddad followed up with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Cranford produced the game’s final five scores, reaching the end zone three more times in the second quarter and twice more in the third.
Oblachinski, who against Summit also passed for two scores, ran for one and produced over 300 yards of total offense, was at it again vs. GL. Oblachinski threw three touchdown passes, ran for one score and almost totaled 300 yards of total offense once more.
Senior back Ryan Bakie caught two touchdown passes and ran for a score, while senior running back Brian McGovern caught one TD pass and ran for a score. Connor Fitzsimmons produced Cranford’s final touchdown.
Cranford’s senior skill players, including Oblachinski, Bakie, McGovern and Sean Bryson, have sparked Cranford’s offense to a 38-point average.
“We weren’t good enough twice already this season – against good teams – and had to get going,” Rosenmeier said. “Those losses forced us to go back to practice and do better.
“They were wakeup calls to be competitive in our conference (Mountain Division – already clinched by Somerville) and overall.
“We had to practice better. Why? Simply, to get better. To become more balanced.”
Oblachinski has really stepped up his game during Cranford’s four-game winning streak, specifically throwing the ball.
“Brian has developed his ability to throw to get people off us and make us more balanced,” Rosenmeier said.
You can see the change, the increased confidence in the team’s performance at 5-0 Summit.
“With Summit, we didn’t focus on them, but on what we needed to do in order to get better,” Rosenmeier said. “I was impressed with how our defense played. We were giving up too many points and too many yards and not improving at the rate I thought we were capable of.
“Defense is about everyone. I think we’re getting to the point where we should have been earlier on.”
Cranford wants to keep it going this Saturday at Hillside against an improved 3-4 Comets squad that is 10th in the CJ, G2 power point standings. This will be the eighth and final playoff qualifying game for both.
“We saw their comeback win against Johnson,” Rosenmeier said. “Their quarterback plays with his feet and can extend plays.
“We’re not sure if we’re in yet in our section (CJ, G3) and may need to win this game to make sure we make it. We want to continue playing like the way we have been, but we know that Hillside will be a tough opponent to go up against, especially on the road.”
2016 MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE WINNERS – ALL OUTRIGHT
DELAWARE: Bridgewater-Raritan, repeated
UNION: Bound Brook will clinch with win over final division foe, Dayton.
WATCHUNG: Westfield, repeated
2 WEEKENDS TO GO BEFORE PLAYOFFS COMMENCE
There are two more weekends of regular season football to go before the playoffs commence the weekend of Nov. 11-12.
Here’s a look at what Union County teams – with seed numbers next to them – would be in the playoffs if the cutoff was this past weekend:
NORTH 2, GROUP 5: 2-Westfield, 5-Elizabeth, 7-Union.
NORTH 2, GROUP 4: 2-Summit.
NORTH 2, GROUP 1: 5-Brearley, 8-Roselle Park.
CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 3: 6-Cranford, 7-Rahway.
CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2: 1-Roselle, 8-Johnson.
Linden is presently the ninth seed in North 2, Group 5 and GL the ninth in North 2, Group 3.