Rahway defense excels, offense finds way in second half; Indians produce first shutout win in 5 years

Moore, Pendleton, Arribas score TDs in 22-0 triumph

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Rahway was led in its win at Cranford by, from left, seniors Joshua Barthelus (No. 64), Zion Pendleton (No. 24), Dashon Moore (No. 1) and Jakir Robinson (No. 5). With them is head coach Brian Russo.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Rahway head coach Brian Russo talks to his Indians after they produced a solid 22-0 win at Mountain Division rival Cranford. It was Rahway’s first shutout in five years.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Rahway’s defense, at right, has now allowed just seven points in its last two games.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Cranford’s defense went a game-and-a-half without allowing a single point until Rahway scored against the Cougars in the second half.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Cranford’s offense just couldn’t get anything going against Rahway, which held the Cougars to just one first down in the second half.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Captains meet before the Rahway vs. Cranford game at Memorial Field.

CRANFORD – A year ago on the same field Rahway held Cranford to zero points in the first half and had a two-touchdown lead at intermission.
Friday night at Memorial Field – once again – the Indians did not allow the host Cougars to put up any points on the scoreboard in the first and second quarters.
The difference this time was that Rahway also had not scored in the first half.
Rahway gained just 68 yards in the first 24 minutes and Cranford only 44. Both teams had the ball exactly four times.
Wanting so bad not to let history repeat itself Rahway overcame the game’s first turnover – a Cranford interception in its own end zone – and then scored moments later after the game’s second.
Rahway then produced one solid scoring drive that covered 80 yards and then returned an interception for a touchdown with a minute left.
This time it was Rahway that did all the scoring in the second half en route to a convincing 22-0 triumph in Friday night’s Mid-State 36 Conference-Mountain Division clash at Memorial Field.
Cranford was shut out at home for the first time since falling to Hillside 28-0 on Sept. 26, 2008.
This is Rahway’s first shutout since blanking Voorhees 28-0 at home on Nov. 2, 2013. This is Rahway’s first road shutout since whitewashing Governor Livingston 35-0 in Berkeley Heights on Oct. 5, 2013.
This was Rahway’s first shutout under fourth-year head coach Brian Russo.
Rahway improved to 2-1 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain Division, while Cranford slipped to 2-1 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain.
In last year’s division game at Memorial, Cranford came back from a 14-0 halftime deficit to win 24-14, bolstered by a rushing game that totaled 365 yards. Cranford was 0-2 and needed the win, while Rahway was 2-0. Both teams went on to make the playoffs in North 2, Group 3.
In contrast to last year’s game, Cranford got only as far as the Rahway 41 in the first half Friday night and only reached Rahway territory once in seven possessions in the second, reaching the Rahway 47 when the Indians were ahead 7-0.
The lead running backs were held to paltry sums of yardage in the first half, Rahway senior Zion Pendleton carried seven times for 12 yards and Cranford senior James Shriner six for 13.
Cranford junior quarterback Connor Katz, who missed last year’s game against Rahway with an arm injury, completed seven-of-nine passes in the first half for 58 yards.
Rahway senior Jonathan Cardoza-chicas produced a 66-yard punt and Cranford senior John McAleavey a 65-yard punt in the first half.
After holding Cranford to a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half – Katz was under heavier pressure from Rahway’s defense in the third and fourth quarters – Rahway took over at the Cranford 41.
Rahway moved the ball all the way to the Cranford 13 before a 30-yard field goal attempt by Cardoza-chicas had the length, but was wide left.
After Rahway held Cranford to without a first down again – Cranford produced only one first down in the second half on a Katz 15-yard run up the middle – Rahway drove from its own 48 to the Cranford 18 before senior lefty-throwing quarterback Jakir Robinson was intercepted in the end zone by Cranford sophomore free safety Jake Chapman.
With 4:20 remaining in the third quarter that was the game’s first turnover.
The second one occurred on the very next play.
Pendleton, from his linebacker position, hit Shriner hard, with the ball coming loose and senior defensive back Dwayne Hill recovering the fumble. Shriner gained six yards on the play and came out of the game. He did not return, finishing with 23 yards on nine carries.
Rahway, which began on Cranford’s 26, capitalized on the turnover to break the scoreless tie and take the lead for good. After gaining a first down to the Cranford 14 on a Pendleton 12-yard – Pendleton finished with 75 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown – Rahway was faced with a third-and-nine at the Cranford 13.
Robinson rolled right and then threw across his body over the middle to senior running back Dashon Moore, who was open in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Cardoza-chicas added the extra point and Rahway was up 7-0.
The drive was four plays, covered 26 yards and took 2:16.
“That first touchdown was huge,” Pendleton said. “It gave us a boost.”
“We came out, executed, blocked and ran our routes right,” Robinson said.
Katz completed two short passes on first and second down on Cranford’s next drive, but his next on third down went incomplete and the Cougars were held to another three-and-out.
“Our defense works hard every day,” said Rahway standout senior linebacker Shimei Paige, who along with junior linebacker Qualil Lumpkins led a defensive effort that never stopped swarming to the football. “All hats were to the ball. Since Somerville (a 42-31 loss) the coaches have had us working hard on wrapping up.”
Rahway’s fourth possession of the second half was thwarted by a solo sack of Robinson by Cranford senior defensive lineman Rob Schork for a six-yard loss that forced the Indians to punt.
Cranford began its next drive on the Rahway 49, but gained only two yards and then had to punt the ball right back to the Indians.
Rahway began at its own 20 with 6:14 remaining. On third-and-four its own 26, Robinson again rolled right and this time reversed field to find Pendleton open on the left side for a huge 17-yard pass that gave the Indians a first down at its own 43.
“I first saw him running for his life and then he was able to get the ball to me,” Pendleton said.
Two plays later Pendleton broke a run down the left sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Cranford 28. After a 26-yard pass over the middle to junior wide receiver Mark Bails – who turned around to come down with the ball with both hands against double coverage and his back to the end zone – put the ball at the Cranford one-yard line, Pendleton scored up the middle on the next play. Cardoza-chicas added the extra point to make it 14-0.
Rahway marched 80 yards in eight plays and used 4:40.
Rahway sophomore defensive back Nasir Arribas then returned an interception – untouched – 45 yards for the game’s final touchdown. After what Rahway head coach Brian Russo called a high snap on the extra point attempt, holder Moore threw a pass to Lumpkins in the right corner of the end zone for the game’s final two points, putting Rahway ahead 22-0.
“Cranford’s very good and very physical and to come here two years in a row is not easy,” Russo said. “At 0-0 at the half we were not in any kind of flow offensively, but we made a big third down for our first touchdown.
“Our defense has played really well now the last two weeks and Zion Pendleton just plays all night for us, he was big.”
“We just have to find a way now to limit our penalties,” Moore said.
There were plenty called the entire game, with the Indians responsible for several unsportsmanlike ones.
However, Rahway survived those unfortunate decisions and will now seek a third consecutive road victory at 0-4 North Plainfield next Friday night.
Cranford will remain at home for a big game against 2-2 Voorhees, also next Friday night.