After the first 24 minutes of its third game, Cranford – a football team with seven straight winning seasons and six consecutive playoff campaigns presently going – was staring at an 0-3 start for the first time since 2008.
Add the fact that the Cougars had just lost starting sophomore quarterback Connor Katz to a possible season-ending arm injury when he tried to break his fall going out of bounds midway through the second half of Game No. 3.
Then something clicked in vs. visiting Rahway, with the Indians up two touchdowns and seeking to start 3-0 for the second straight season.
“The seniors stepped up and we moved the ball with a good running game and got first downs in the second half,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “Our kicker (senior Valentino Ambrosio) also did a good job for us by making a field goal and kicking the ball out of the end zone after every time we scored.”
Cranford came back to win that Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division clash at Cranford’s Memorial Field by the score of 24-14. The Cougars came back from a 14-0 halftime deficit – behind quarterbacks Dan Curren, a senior, and James Shriner, a junior, – to capture their home-opener.
Defensively, junior left cornerback Dante Cassero and senior free safety Anthony Araujo produced big second-half interceptions.
“This was just one win, however,” Rosenmeier continued. “Are we going to continue to move forward now is the next question?”
In a good news-not so great news scenario, Cranford did move on in a positive manner in terms of wins and losses.
Cranford went back on the road Friday night and did come away with its first win away from home this year, downing Mountain Division foe North Plainfield 28-6.
However, in a game that featured all of its scoring in the first half, the Cougars were less than impressive in victory according to Rosenmeier.
“It was good to get a ‘W’, but we were sloppy,” Rosenmeier said. “Our defense was good the whole night, thank God.”
Cranford evened its overall record at 2-2 and is now in third place in the Mountain Division, also at 2-2 there.
“Offensively, we still stubbed our toe,” Rosenmeier said.
Senior running back Joshua Cadet rushed for two scores and Curren for one. Curren also completed a touchdown pass to Shriner. Curren and Shriner both played at quarterback again.
Ambrosio was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra-point kicks.
Cranford scored the game’s final three touchdowns in the second quarter after a 7-6 lead following the first.
North Plainfield’s only points were produced by its defense on a fumble recovery in the first quarter.
“Offensively, we still have a way to go,” Rosenmeier said.
Cranford’s defense has not allowed a point for six straight quarters heading into this Saturday’s non-division clash at high-scoring Raritan Division foe Scotch Plains.
“We only had three guys back on defense, with the new guys coming along,” Rosenmeier said.
The three returning starters are senior left end John Markase, junior right end Rob Schork and senior middle linebacker Dylan Budnik.
“Those three players have provided experience, with the others getting steadily better,” Rosenmeier said. “On the first day the first-year players were just out there playing.
“Since then they’ve learned technique a bit more and are moving toward playing with reckless abandon.”
With a kickoff time of 2 p.m. at Tyson Field, this is Cranford’s only scheduled regular season day game and it’s also the only game involving Union County teams this Saturday.
Scotch Plains is 0-4 for the third straight year and for the fifth time since 2010. Although the Raiders have not won a game yet this year they have scored at least two touchdowns in each game and are averaging 23 points.
Rosenmeier was at Tatlock Field last Friday scouting both teams – which are Cranford’s next two opponents – when host Summit never trailed in beating Scotch Plains 56-35 in a Raritan Division clash.
On Saturday Rosenmeier, formerly the athletic director at Scotch Plains, will be going up against close friend Mark Ciccotelli, who became the head coach at Scotch Plains this year. Before spending one season as the head coach at North Plainfield last year, Ciccotelli was Rosenmeier’s offensive coordinator in 2015, with Cranford going 12-0 for the first time in school history and winning North 2, Group 3 for the second time in the playoff era.
“Like I’ve said before, I don’t like playing Scotch Plains,” said Rosenmeier, whose record vs. the Raiders since he became the head coach at Cranford in 2005 is 7-2 overall (4-2 home, 3-0 away and did not play in 2008, 2014 and 2015).
“Whether it’s (former head coaches) Steve (Ciccotelli) or Jon (Stack) or (present head coach) Mark (Ciccotelli) I don’t take any joy out of it,” Rosenmeier continued. “We will both prepare for each other for a week and then be done.”
Cranford and Scotch Plains have not faced each other at Scotch Plains since 2013. Scotch Plains last defeated Cranford in 2009 and last beat the Cougars at home in 2000.
CRANFORD VS. SCOTCH PLAINS SINCE 2005:
2017: Cranford at Scotch Plains, Oct. 7, 2 p.m.
2016: Cranford 40, Scotch Plains 14 – at Cranford
2015: Did not play
2014: Did not play
2013: Cranford 34, Scotch Plains 14 – at Scotch Plains
2012: Cranford 26, Scotch Plains 20 – at Cranford
2011: Cranford 27, Scotch Plains 7 – at Scotch Plains
2010: Cranford 21, Scotch Plains 14 – at Cranford
2009: Scotch Plains 26, Cranford 24 – at Cranford
2008: Did not play
2007: Scotch Plains 42, Cranford 20 – at Cranford
2006: Cranford 15, Scotch Plains 13 – at Scotch Plains
2005: Cranford 26, Scotch Plains 23 (OT) – at Cranford