By JR Parachini, Sports Editor
For the first time in program history theCranfordfootball team is a defending state champion. Now the Cougars go from the glory of that victory last Dec. 3 to the harsh realization that last year was last year and this is a whole new season. “People are used to us being 6-4, not state champions,” said heavily recruited senior option quarterback Reggie Green.
“Now that we’ve got a state championship, we have a lot more to prove to everybody”Cranfordblanked Parsippany Hills 27-0 in last year’s North 2, Group 3 championship game at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium inUnion. Right now the Cougars are still preparing for tomorrow night’s season-opener at home vs. Watchung Hills. “We’ll miss a lot of starters from last year,” Green said.
“Right now we’re dividing stuff up and having people fill in. “We’re trying a lot of people at a lot of different positions to see what they can do. We’re experimenting. “At first we thought it was going to take time, but now we’re coming together quicker.” Green proved quite tough to bring down last year, especially when he gets that initial burst of speed.
“This year I’ve been working on reading the offense and improving my mechanics,” Green said. “This is my second year in this offense, so I’ve got to be perfect with my reads and everything.
I’ve also been reading defenses more.” Returning senior lineman Chris Folinusz will see time at the skill positions because of injuries to seniors Nick Diaz and Jimmy Dwyer. Diaz is also a force defensively at linebacker. “We have a couple of guys hurt, but other guys have stepped up,” Folinusz said. “I think we’ll be all right. Everything is starting to mesh and come together.
“Our biggest problem is just, pretty much, the linemen. The little stuff we can fix. Our intensity is there, we’re running to the ball and we’re tackling good.” Head coach Erik Rosenmeier said that Folinusz can play 10 of the 11 positions on offense, leaving quarterback to Green.
“I’ll play pretty much wherever they need me,” Folinusz said. “I don’t care about stats, I just want to win. We always have to prove ourselves. “Until we start winning year in and year out like some of those other teams, we’re going to have to keep proving ourselves. We’re going to have to show people we can win and that we can still do it.”
Watchung Hills is in the Mid-State 38 Conference’s newly formed Watchung Division along withNorth Hunterdon,Plainfield, Ridge,Linden,Montgomeryand Immaculata. The Warriors are coming off a 2-8 season. “We’re going to go out there and give it our all,” Folinusz said. “Our coaches prepare us well. We just have to go out and execute.”
Last year was the first season Rosenmeier guidedCranfordinto the state playoffs. The schedule doesn’t get any easier this year.
The Cougars are in the Mid-State’s new Raritan Division along withSomerville,Summit,North Plainfield,Roselle, Johnson andDelawareValley.Cranfordseeks a third straight winning season. The Cougars are a combined 17-5 the last two years, including a program best 10-1 last season.
“The kids have responded well,” Rosenmeier said. “Last year we were able to do something we’ve never done before. It’s a lesson for everyone that last year is over and that many of the players on that team are gone. “Expectations are higher now and we have the challenge of maintaining them. Our division is loaded.Summithas won it the last three years and they beat us pretty good last year.
It would have been even more loaded ifRahwaywas in the mix.”Cranfordremains in North 2, Group 3, with fellowUnionCountyschoolsSummitand Governor Livingston moving up to the section.Rahwayis supposed to be back in the section as well.