While Rahway and Cranford opened their 2019 seasons with double-digit Mid-State Conference triumphs Friday night, both head coaches declared that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“We had some holding penalties that resulted in touchdowns being called back, so that is just one of the things we have to clean up,” Rahway head coach Brian Russo said after his team blanked Voorhees 50-0 in Mountain Division play at Rahway River Park.
“We had some turnovers that set us back, but to our credit we hung in there and got the win,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said after his team overcame three-point and seven-point deficits to turn back Montgomery 31-16 in Raritan Division action at Memorial Field.
Russo said that the Indians had three touchdowns called back in the first quarter and had to settle for kicking a field goal on one of those possessions. He continued to say that a barrage of offense, resulting in points this time, followed in the second quarter.
Rahway produced five interceptions, with Rashon Bradford and Brayden Pierree-Louis returning one each for a touchdown. Bradford finished with two, while Dezhon Kane and Brandon Burnett had the others.
First-year placekicker Chris Sola kicked a 25-yard field goal.
Another first-year performer, quarterback Nasir Arribas, threw touchdown passes to Pierre-Louis, Bradford and Mark Bails. Ashon Harris and Bradford ran for scores.
“We had a good day on offense,” Russo said. “We didn’t think it would be like this. Voorhees always plays us tough.”
Leading Rahway’s shutout effort on defense was returning senior middle linebacker Qualil Lumpkin.
“He was an absolute beast,” Russo said. “Every tackle was wow. He’s one of the best linebackers around.”
Russo also hailed the efforts of linemen Tahlee Bailey and Joshua Darisme up front.
“Bailey had 2.5 sacks,” Russo said. “Bailey, Darisme and Lumpkin were the anchors. Lumpkin was the show. He has a heck of a film to send out.”
Cranford overcame 3-0 and 10-3 deficits to eventually get out to a 24-10 lead. The third Cougar TD was produced after Cranford drove down the field, but was stopped at the Montgomery one-yard line.
Junior linebacker Kevin Keogh caught a tipped pass at the Montgomery five-yard line and returned the interception for a touchdown late in the first half to help Cranford extend its lead to 24-10.
Montgomery answered with a long touchdown pass to pull to within 24-16 at intermission.
The score remained that way until Cranford senior quarterback Connor Katz broke a run of about 35 yards late for the game’s final touchdown.
“I think Montgomery is pretty good,” said Rosenmeier, who notched victory No. 97.
Rosenmeier cited the solid play on both sides of the ball by senior Tom Korzeneski, at wide receiver and cornerback, and praised his defense for how it stopped Montgomery’s No. 11 and was able to shut out the Somerset County Cougars the final 24 minutes.
First-year Cranford placekicker Diar Dautaga, a junior who previously played soccer, kicked a 28-yard field goal and four extra points.
UNION COUNTY SCOREBOARD:
Rahway 50, Voorhees 0 – at Rahway: The Indians opened with a shutout victory for the first time since beating Cranford 26-0 at home in 2007.
Cranford 31, Montgomery 16 – at Montgomery: In a battle of the Cougars vs. the Cougars Cranford captures Raritan Division opener against new Somerset County foe.
Union 35, Elizabeth 0 – at Elizabeth: Farmers produce first shutout win since a 35-0 triumph at Plainfield in September of 2016.
Scotch Plains 19, Carteret 14 – at Carteret: Raiders even record at 1-1 and have now won two of their last three including last year’s consolation win over Kearny.
Watchung Hills 35, Plainfield 12 – at Watchung Hills: Improved Warriors move to 2-0 for first time since 2013.
Delaware Valley 14, Johnson 6 – at Delaware Valley: Close Valley Division opener goes to home team.
New Providence 30, Dayton 14 – at New Providence: Pioneers win opener for second straight season.
Brearley 20, Belvidere 6 – at Belvidere: Bears beat Warren County foe for second year in a row.
South Hunterdon 31, Roselle Park 0 – at South Hunterdon: First varsity game for visiting Panthers since Thanksgiving 2017.