CRANFORD – The Cougars had an interesting season last year. On the final week of the regular season they were stomped at Group 2 power Hillside 39-10.
However, they still managed to qualify for the state playoffs, making the grade in North 2, Group 4 for the second time and first time since way back in 1975, which was the first year of four-team playoff sections just one year after the first playoff games (only sectional finals) were contested in Atlantic City.
Cranford went to Linden for a first-round game very few gave the visiting Cougars a chance to win.
Linden returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Then Cranford’s top player – senior running back James Shriner – went down immediately with a concussion he could not come back from.
Cranford overcame those obstacles in a big way – boy did the Cougars ever. Cranford went on to produce a stunning 30-12 triumph and scored the most points against Linden. There was a stretch where Linden gave up seven points or less in six straight games.
Cranford’s season ended with a 21-0 loss at eventual champion Phillipsburg.
Cranford has now won playoff games in Group sizes 2, 3 and 4.
The Cougars reached the playoffs for the eighth straight season and won at least one playoff game for the sixth time in that stretch. They were also the only team in the regular season to beat eventual North 2, Group 3 state champion Summit.
Back to lead the spread offense for the third year is senior quarterback Connor Katz, who already has one offer from Georgetown.
“He’s bigger, faster and stronger and has had a good pre-season,” said head coach Erik Rosenmeier, now in his 15th season at the helm of the Cougars.
Rosenemeier’s 14-season record at Cranford, which includes the program’s two state championships in the playoff era, is 96-50 (.658).
“Connor can make a lot of throws and is dangerous on his feet if he utilizes them,” Rosenmeier added. “He can be as dangerous with his feet as he is with his arm.”
The only returning starter on offense and defense is standout senior Patrick Blowe – a guard on offense and the nose guard on defense.
“He didn’t play until his freshman year and now he’s getting offers from places like Holy Cross and the academies,” Rosenmeier said.
Both Katz and Blowe are above solid academically.
“Patrick is also an excellent student and is attracting attention from the elite schools,” Rosenmeier said. “He’s a dominant run-blocker and uses his hands well. He will threaten the snap to the quarterback.
“He will be a handful on both sides of the ball.”
Blowe may be joined on the line by three first-year varsity sophomores, including Matt Fries, Kevin Shriner and Lukas Ruby.
Katz has a plethora of targets to spread the ball out to with a better than even chance of moving the chains. Wide receivers include seniors Cole Blazek, Tom Korzeneski and Matt Ronan and junior Argun Petgrave, who is also a basketball player.
“Getting Katz and those guys to understand each other is a relationship that will be important for us,” Rosenmeier said.
The only other returning starter on defense along with Blowe is junior free safety Jake Chapman.
“Our front six, other than Blowe, will get tested,” Rosenmeier said. “They were JV players who now need to get up to speed at the varsity level. We like their talent, but they’re untested.”
Cranford’s game-scrimmage will be on the road for a change this year and not close by. The Cougars will travel to Franklinville in Gloucester County to compete at Delsea Regional.
The Crusaders, coached by Sal Marchese, captured the South Jersey, Group 3 state championship four years in a row from 2012-2015 and most recently in 2017. Last year’s squad finished 6-4.
“We wanted to go up against a good team.” Rosenmeier said. “Week 1 came late this year, so there were not a lot of choices. So we’re going to take a long bus ride.”
The game-scrimmage is scheduled for this Thursday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m.
Cranford will then open its 2019 season at Montgomery on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Field.
Cranford was moved out of the Mid-State Conference’s Mountain Division and into the Raritan Division. The Raritan Division this season consists of North, Group 4 schools Cranford, Montgomery, North Hunterdon and Scotch Plains and Non-Public, Group 2 school Immaculata.
Unlike last year Cranford has a Middlesex County crossover opponent and it is J.P. Stevens of North Edison. Cranford’s other out-of-division games are against Mountain Division foes Rahway, Somerville and Summit.
CRANFORD’S MULTIPLE SPREAD OFFENSE:
LT Matt Fries, sophomore, (6-4, 210)
LG Kevin Shriner, sophomore, (6-2, 240)
C Mike Fanelli, senior, (5-9, 215)
C Lukas Ruby, sophomore, (6-2, 215)
RG Patrick Blowe, senior, (6-2, 295)
RT Rob Stevens, junior, (6-3, 230)
RT Dan Quinones, junior, (6-3, 200)
WR Cole Blazek, senior, (6-2, 195)
WR Argun Petgrave, junior, (6-3, 170)
WR Tom Korzeneski, senior, (6-2, 185)
WR Matt Ronan, senior, (5-8, 165)
SLOT Michael Kalnins, senior, (5-10, 170)
SLOT Jake Chapman, junior, (6-2, 170)
SLOT-H Jake DiClerico, senior, (5-9, 175)
SLOT-H Anthony DeCostello, senior, (6-2, 195)
TB Marcus Johnson, junior, (5-6, 140)
TB Dennis DeMarino, junior, (5-10, 180)
QB Connor Katz, senior, (6-2, 205)
PK Diar Dautaga, junior, (5-8, 150)
Returning starters (6): Blowe, Blazek,
Korzeneski, Kalnins, DeCostello, Katz.
CRANFORD’S 3-3-5 DEFENSE:
NG Patrick Blowe, senior, (6-2, 295)
NG Kevin Shriner, sophomore, (6-2, 240)
LE Aidan Plick, senior, (6-2, 205)
LE Mike Anzalone, junior, (5-10, 220)
RE Liam Loughlin, senior, (6-4, 195)
RE Garrett Lynch, junior, (6-2, 205)
LB Kevin Keogh, junior, (5-11, 205)
LB Max Spinner, sophomore, (5-10, 175)
MLB Matt Coates, junior, (5-10 ,190)
MLB Lucca Limiera, sophomore, (5-9, 175)
LB Nick Librera, junior, (5-10, 195)
LB Mike Fanelli, senior, (5-9, 215)
SS Evan Kanterman, senior, (6-0, 180)
SS Dennis DeMarino, junior, (5-10, 180)
SS Michael Kalnins, senior, (5-10, 170)
SS Nate Caldwell, junior, (5-7, 165)
FS Jake Chapman, junior, (6-2, 170)
FS Anthony DeCostello, senior, (6-2, 195)
FS JT Russell, senior, (6-2, 170)
CB Connor Katz, senior, (6-2, 205)
CB Tom Korzeneski, senior, (6-2, 185)
CB Cole Blazek, senior, (6-2, 195)
CB Luke Pachkowski, senior, (5-10, 170)
P Katz or Blazek
Returning starters (2): Blowe, Chapman.
CRANFORD COUGARS 2019
Sept. 13 Montgomery, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Scotch Plains, 1 p.m.
Sept. 27 Somerville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 Immaculata, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Rahway, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 J.P. Stevens, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 at North Hunterdon, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Summit, 2:30 p.m.
Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,
2018 CRANFORD COUGARS (6-4)
(A) Cranford 42, North Plainfield 13
(H) Cranford 35, Gov. Livingston 0
(H) Rahway 22, Cranford 0
(H) Cranford 28, Voorhees 21
(A) Somerville 50, Cranford 7
(H) Cranford 25, Summit 12
(A) Cranford 35, Immaculata 7
(A) Hillside 39, Cranford 10
(A) Cranford 30, Linden 12
(A) Phillipsburg 21, Cranford 0
Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,
Section: North, Group 4
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Mountain, 3-2
Points for: 212
Points against: 197
Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier, since 2005.
A 1983 Johnson Regional graduate.
15th season: 96-50 (.658)
Conference: Mid-State 37
Section: North, Group 4
Cranford’s last sectional title: 2015
2018: (6-4 and 3-2, third in Mountain Division)
Rosenmeier first guided Cranford to six straight
non-playoff seasons (2005-2010) and now seeks to
lead the Cougars to a ninth consecutive playoff
campaign. Cranford is 10-6 in the playoffs the last
eight seasons, the first five of those in N2, G3.
In that span Cranford reached the N2, G3 semifinals
five times, the final three times and won it twice
(2011 and 2015). Those are the program’s two
state championships in the playoff era. Cranford lost
in the Central Jersey, Group 3 quarterfinals in 2016
and the North 2, Group 3 quarterfinals in 2017.
Last year Cranford was placed in North, Group 4 and
qualified for the North 2, Group 4 playoffs for the
second time and first time since 1975. Cranford won
its first playoff game in Group 4 last year and has now
won playoff games in Group sizes 2, 3 and 4.
Cranford is 72-24 (.750) this decade and has won the
second-most games of any school in Union County.
Summit is first with 83 and Westfield third with