Cranford has qualified for the state playoffs the last six seasons.
At 3-3 and back in North 2, Group 3 this season, the Cougars may not net enough power points to make the grade even if they win their final two qualifying games.
“It’s still cloudy,” head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “Our record is self-inflicted.”
At present time Cranford is preparing for Friday night’s Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division game at Governor Livingston.
Cranford is 2-2 in the division and GL 1-3. The Highlanders are 1-4 overall. Somerville – at 4-1 – won the division outright based on its win over Voorhees, which also finished the division at 4-1.
Cranford had a three-game winning streak snapped at home by Summit 31-13 in last Friday night’s non-division game at Memorial Field.
It was Summit’s first win over Cranford since the 2013 North 2, Group 3 semifinals. Cranford defeated Summit the past three seasons.
“Summit played well defensively,” Rosenmeier said. “We had some opportunities on offense, but didn’t take advantage of them.”
To keep any hopes alive of being one of the eight playoff teams in North 2, Group 3, Cranford needs to leave Berkeley Heights with a victory.
“We need to finish our drives on offense and stop giving up the big play on defense,” Rosenmeier said.
Cranford received a lift when sophomore quarterback Connor Katz returned to action in last week’s 31-13 non-division home loss to Summit. Katz and senior Dan Curren both played behind center.
Katz has come back from a serious arm injury sustained in Cranford’s second game of the season at Voorhees.
GL has lost two straight, including last Friday night’s 60-7 setback at Somerville.
“When GL is at full strength they play well,” Rosenmeier said. “They were 0-0 at the half with Voorhees.
“They have players that can give us problems. It’s a diversified offense that we’re not accustomed to seeing.
“We know one thing. We need the win.”
UNION COUNTY FOOTBALL WILL BE
WELL-REPRESENTED ON SATURDAY NIGHT’S
BIGGEST COLLEGE STAGE
Saturday night’s Big Ten East Division clash that features No. 19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1) at No. 2 Penn State (6-0, 3-0) will include former Union County standouts going at it in the trenches.
Penn State redshirt freshman Will Fries (6-6, 304) earned his initial first-team right tackle label on Penn State’s depth chart this week. The 2016 Cranford graduate helped lead the Cougars to the program’s first 12-0 finish and second North 2, Group 3 state championship in the playoff era, both in his senior season of 2015.
Michigan true sophomore defensive tackle Rashan Gary (6-5, 280), born in Plainfield, began his high school playing days at Scotch Plains before transferring to and finishing at Paramus Catholic, despite the efforts of Scotch Plains arguing that Gary was illegally recruited.
They will be two of the prominent players on display before a crowd of 108,000 at Beaver Stadium.
“They are the type of players that Union County has produced over the years,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “It says a lot about the area from which they come from. We’ve all been fortunate enough to have a guy or two make it like they have.”
Gary, a big part of Michigan’s strength – which is its defense – as a senior in high school became the third player to be named the top player in the country unanimously by all four major recruiting networks.
As a true freshman last year for head coach Jim Harbaugh, the five-star recruit had 27 tackles and one sack in 12 games.
Fries, a standout on both the offensive and defensive lines for Cranford, played in state championship games his junior and senior seasons for the Cougars.
“When he was being recruited the only question became whether he would be good enough,” Rosenmeier said of Fries. “His character, his discipline, his effort was always there.
“Now, he’s getting closer and closer to getting to the point of showing how good he can be. I can say for one thing that you will not read about any issues concerning him. He’s very easy to coach.
“That’s a tribute to his parents and how they raised him. They did such a great job raising their son.
“We’re all proud of him.”