Best decade of Cranford football highlighted; Head coach Erik Rosenmeier, at helm of Cougars since 2005, going for win No. 100

When Erik Rosenmeier was hired in 2005 to succeed Cranford 1984 graduate Chris Hull as head coach of the Cougars, Cranford football was just on the heels of turning the corner.
Cranford has just made the playoffs three years on a row for the first time in program history and came within a whisker of reaching a state championship game in 2003.
Rosenmeier, now in his first stint as a head coach after assisting his high school mentor Steve Ciccotelli at Scotch Plains, dealt with the usual challenges of a newcomer and initially had to prepare the Cougars for the likes of Linden, Irvington and Shabazz on a regular basis.
Cranford had mild success in Rosenmeier’s beginning seasons, but nothing to quite write home about. His first six seasons at the helm, 2005-2010, saw the Cougars go 30-30, including a 6-0 record in season-ending consolation games after the Cranford failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The 2010 team began with impressive road wins at Johnson 43-20 and then at Voorhees 35-6, but still failed to get over the hump of making the playoffs again, settling for a6-4 finish.
However, unprecedented success was quickly on the horizon.
Before we get to that, at the moment Rosenmeier’s overall record at Cranford is 99-52 (.656) including a 3-2 start in this being his 15th season at the helm of the Cougars.
Cranford hosts 0-6 J.P. Stevens Friday night at 7 at Memorial Field in its first Union County vs. Middlesex County crossover. This will be Rosenmeier’s second attempt at reaching victory No. 100.
Before last Friday night’s 46-14 thumping at Rahway, Cranford had a 75-25 record this decade for an even .750 winning percentage.
The Cougars, who lead the Mid-State Conference’s Raritan Division standings at 3-0, hope to get back to their winning ways against J.P. Stevens,
which has been shut out three times already, give Rosenmeier his 100th win and continue their path to a program-record ninth straight playoff campaign.
For the continued winning seasons and playoff success that was to commence in 2011, Rosenmeier described the formation as being put together by many of the kids who excelled for the 2009 and 2010 squads.
“Guys like J.T. Vicci, Joe Papandrea, Sean Trotter, Michael Klimek and J.P. Christiano, they really laid the foundation for what was to come,” Rosenmeier, a 1983 Johnson Regional graduate, said. “Those kids were just as responsible for the heights that we reached.
“Not making the playoffs after the start we got off to in 2010 was heartache, but then we responded the next year.”
The next year, 2011, saw Cranford reach heights many thought might never be possible.
“We kept what they starting going,” Rosenmeier said.
The 2011 season saw Cranford win 10 games for the first time and then after a bye win at Colonia convincingly by the score of 34-7 to reach its first state championship game, which was that season’s North 2, Group 3 final at Kean University.
Close to producing a shutout that season, but falling short, Cranford not only prevailed over Parsippany Hills, but blanked the Vikings in the process, winning 27-0.
“Our success was a group effort,” Rosenmeier said.
That included the players, the likes of Chad Faulcon (Montclair State, Atlanta Falcons), Reggie Green (Pitt), Luke Christiano (Lehigh), Chris Folinusz (Rutgers-baseball), Will Fries (Penn State) and Jack Schetelich (Villanova). Those are just some of the names of the so many who contributed.
Then there are the coaches, the mainstays like 1997 Cranford grad Kerry Drexler who played for Nick Brown and Ryan Huber, both with Rosenmeier since the first season of 2005.
Coming aboard as defensive coordinator in 2010 after serving as head coach at Gov. Livingston was Joe Hubert.
Aiding as a volunteer assistant is 1982 Cranford graduate John Vicci, father of J.T., a standout, multi-sport athlete who graduated from Cranford in 2011 and passed away in November of 2017 after injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
Other coaches on this year’s staff in addition to Drexler, Huber, Hubert and Vicci include Chuck Bell, Jaime Condrack, freshman coach and 2009 Cranford grad Lawrence Emert, Faulcon, a 2008 grad; 2007 grad Dan Gargiulo, Hunter McHugh, Rob Kessler and Ed Pedicine.
“It’s not easy to stay and my coaches have been extremely loyal,” Rosenmeier said.
How about the parents?
“The way the parents raise their kids in Cranford to listen to their teachers and coaches is also a big part of our success,” Rosenmeier said.
The Cranford football player wrestles and then plays lacrosse. The Cranford baseball player plays football and then basketball. The success of each Cranford sports program is related to another.
“The philosophy we want in the community is that we thrive on having multi-sport athletes,” Rosenmeier said. “We encourage the kids to play these sports and create the time for them to do so. We share our athletes and it benefits each program.
“Last year there were 20 baseball players and 20 lacrosse players that also played football. At Cranford you’re most likely not going to find a kid that plays just one sport. The majority I would say are three-sport athletes.”
As far as going up against the present edict these days of “where are all the kids going that used to play football,” Rosenmeier reports that Cranford’s numbers are holding their own.
“After 2011 we were in the 80s as a low and 90s as a high,” Rosenmeier said of the number of players in his program. “We are now in the mid-70s from grades 10-12.
“Another reason for our success and solid numbers is the support we get from our PAL Youth Program. They do a great job encouraging the kids to play and instilling a love of the game.”
Since this decade began in 2010, Cranford has posted nine straight winning seasons, has made the playoffs the last eight years in a row and has won at least one playoff game in six of those seasons.
In addition, Cranford has reached three state championship games and won two of them. The 2011 team won North 2, Group 3 with a 10-1 record that included a first-round playoff bye and the 2015 team won North 2, Group 3 again, this time with a perfect 12-0 record.
The 2014 team finished 11-1 after falling in the North 2, Group 3 final at MetLife Stadium to first-time champion Parsippany Hills. The Cougars fell a touchdown short and then took it out on all 12 2015 opponents, including Chatham in the overwhelming state championship win at Kean.
Bumped up to Group 4 last year for the first time since the 1970s, Cranford actually was one of the four teams that qualified in North 2, Group 4 in 1975, the Cougars upset Linden 30-12 in the first round of the North 2, Group 4 playoffs despite the host Tigers returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and Cranford losing standout senior James Shriner to a concussion early in the first quarter. Cranford was also the only team to beat eventual North 2, Group 3 state champion Summit in the regular season last year.
“First of all Cranford is incredibly well-coached, Erik (Rosenmeier) and Joe (Hubert) it has to start there,” said Kevin Kostibos, head coach at Summit since 2013 and an assistant there before that. “You’re not going to get a freebie when playing them.”
Cranford vs. Summit grew into some kind of rivalry this decade, with many of the games having historical reference. Summit was the only team to beat Cranford in the regular season in 2011 and did so soundly. Cranford ended Summit’s long winning streak in 2014.
The teams clashed in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals in 2013, with Summit winning. This decade Summit won North 2, Group 3 in 2012, 2013 and 2018, while Cranford won the section in 2011, 2015 and reached the final in 2014.
“Every town has their run,” Kostibos said.
Summit will finish with the most wins of any Union County school this decade and including this year’s 4-1 start is 87-18 (.829) so far. Cranford could finish with the second-most wins and including this year’s 3-2 start is 75-26 (.743). Westfield is presently third and including its 4-1 start is 73-30 (.709), including three state championships won in North 2, Group 5 (2015, 2016, 2017) this decade.
“Cranford’s success is a testament to the popularity of football in that town,” Kostibos said. “Football is not hurting in Cranford.”
A decade-and-a-half has gone by quickly for Rosenmeier. There have been some downs, but far more ups.
“I can’t believe how fast it’s gone,” Rosenmeier said. “I love doing what I’m doing and will be here as long as they will have me. I love coaching kids and teaching them our philosophy. I think it works.”
Cranford will play for the Raritan Division title Oct. 25 at North Hunterdon. The Cougars will then wrap their regular season with a non-division game against Mountain Division member Summit Nov. 2.
Cranford is once again situated in North, Group 4 and is seeking to qualify for either the North 2 or North 1 playoffs in Group 4, whichever section the state decides to seed the Cougars if they garner enough power points to qualify.
From Cranford Athletic Director Darren Torsone:
“We’ve been fortunate enough the past decade to have a wonderful coaching staff. They do an awesome job with our student-athletes and are committed to them all year.
“They have training in the weight room, they have them at summer workouts and the kids buy into their routine.

THE BEST DECADE OF CRANFORD FOOTBALL:

2010 CRANFORD COUGARS (6-4)

(A) Cranford 43, Johnson 20

(A) Cranford 35, Voorhees 6

(H) North Plainfield 28, Cranford 14

(H) Cranford 21, Scotch Plains 14

(A) Cranford 42, Gov. Livingston 26

(H) Rahway 21, Cranford 20

(H) Cranford 23, Hillside 20

(A) Summit 17, Cranford 13

(A) Delaware Valley 36, Cranford 35 (OT)

(H) Cranford 14, Red Bank 3 – consolation

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

sixth season

Section: Central Jersey, Group 2

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: East B, 3-2

Record: 6-4

Home: 3-2

Away: 3-2

Points for: 260

Points against: 191

Shutouts: 0

Overtime: 0-1

2011 CRANFORD COUGARS (10-1)

(H) Cranford 21, Johnson 6

(H) Cranford 20, Voorhees 6

(A) Cranford 35, North Plainfield 20

(A) Cranford 27, Scotch Plains 7

(H) Cranford 44, Gov. Livingston 20

(A) Cranford 20, Rahway 6

(A) Cranford 35, Hillside 6

(H) Summit 52, Cranford 21

(H) Cranford 41, Delaware Valley 7

(A) Cranford 34, Colonia 7 – N2G3 semis

(N) Cranford 27, Parsippany Hills 0 – N2G3 final

At Kean University

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

seventh season

Section: North 2, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: East B, 4-1

Record: 10-1

Home: 4-1

Away: 5-0

Neutral: 1-0

Points for: 325

Points against: 137

Shutouts: 1

Overtime: 0-0

2012 CRANFORD COUGARS (7-3)

(H) Cranford 17, Watchung Hills 14

(A) Cranford 21, Somerville 0

(H) Summit 30, Cranford 27

(A) Cranford 35, Roselle 21

(A) Cranford 15, Delaware Valley 14

(H) Cranford 26, Scotch Plains 20

(H) Ridge 35, Cranford 21

(A) Cranford 29, Johnson 3

Did not play North Plainfield home

because of Hurricane Sandy.

(H) Cranford 37, South Plainfield 12 – N2G3 quarters

(H) Palisades Park 35, Cranford 21 – N2G3 semis

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

eighth season

Section: North 2, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Raritan, 4-1

Record: 7-3

Home: 3-3

Away: 4-0

Points for: 249

Points against: 184

Shutouts: 1

Overtime: 0-0

2013 CRANFORD COUGARS (7-4)

(A) Watchung Hills 22, Cranford 7

(H) Cranford 20, Somerville 14

(A) Summit 48, Cranford 14

(H) Cranford 13, Roselle 12

(H) Cranford 30, Delaware Valley 13

(A) Cranford 34, Scotch Plains 14

(A) Ridge 49, Cranford 28

(H) Cranford 26, Johnson 10

(A) Cranford 28, North Plainfield 6

(A) Cranford 47, Palisades Park 21 – N2G3 quarters

(A) Summit 35, Cranford 14 – N2G3 semis

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

ninth season

Section: North 2, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Raritan 5-1, second

Record: 7-4

Home: 4-0

Away: 3-4

Points for: 261

Points against: 244

Shutouts: 0

Overtime: 0-0

2014 CRANFORD COUGARS (11-1)

(H) Cranford 45, Warren Hills 6

(A) Cranford 48, Somerville 12

(A) Cranford 35, Roselle 27

(H) Cranford 33, Summit 14

(H) Cranford 42, Voorhees 7

(A) Cranford 40, Hillside 6

(H) Cranford 35, Delaware Valley 18

(A) Cranford 30, Gov. Livingston 13

(H) Cranford 52, North Plainfield 20

(H) Cranford 46, North Plainfield 6 – N2G3 quarters

(H) Cranford 35, West Essex 7 – N2G3 semis

(N) Parsippany Hills 20, Cranford 13 – N2G3 final

At MetLife Stadium

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

10th season

Section: North 2, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Raritan 6-0, champions

Record: 11-1

Home: 7-0

Away: 4-0

Neutral: 0-1

Points for: 454

Points against: 156

Shutouts: 0

Overtime: 0-0

2015 CRANFORD COUGARS (12-0)

(A) Cranford 24, Warren Hills 23

(H) Cranford 41, Somerville 14

(H) Cranford 41, Roselle 7

(A) Cranford 42, Summit 0

(A) Cranford 49, Voorhees 24

(H) Cranford 51, Hillside 17

(A) Cranford 28, Delaware Valley 21

(H) Cranford 35, Gov. Livingston 20

(A) Cranford 50, North Plainfield 8

(H) Cranford 56, Voorhees 7 – N2G3 quarters

(H) Cranford 48, Ridgefield Park 14 – N2G3 semis

(N) Cranford 50, Chatham 23 – N2G3 final

At Kean University

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

11th season

Section: North 2, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Raritan 6-0, champs

Record: 12-0

Home: 6-0

Away: 5-0

Neutral: 1-0

Points for: 515

Points against: 178

Shutouts: 1

Overtime: 0-0

2016 CRANFORD COUGARS (7-3)

(H) Somerville 41, Cranford 17

(H) Cranford 35, Voorhees 0

(A) Rahway 40, Cranford 34

(H) Cranford 56, North Plainfield 35

(H) Cranford 40, Scotch Plains 14

(A) Cranford 37, Summit 7

(H) Cranford 49, Gov. Livingston, 7

(A) Cranford 49, Hillside 13

(A) Cranford 28, Delaware Valley 27

(A) Rumson-Fair Haven 23, Cranford 13 – CJG3 quarters

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

12th season

Section: Central Jersey, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Mountain 3-2, third

Record: 7-3

Home: 4-1

Away: 3-2

Points for: 358

Points against: 220

Shutouts: 1

Overtime: 0-0

2017 CRANFORD COUGARS (6-4)

(A) Somerville 36, Cranford 16

(A) Voorhees 35, Cranford 0

(H) Cranford 24, Rahway 14

(A) Cranford 28, North Plainfield 6

(A) Cranford 43, Scotch Plains 42 (2OT)

(H) Summit 31, Cranford 13

(A) Cranford 38, Gov. Livingston 0

(H) Cranford 34, Hillside 21

(H) Cranford 28, Delaware Valley 18

(A) Parsippany Hills 48, Cranford 21 – N2G3 quarters

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

13th season

Section: North 2, Group 3

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Mountain, 3-2

Record: 6-4

Home: 3-1

Away: 3-3

Points for: 245

Points against: 251

Shutouts: 1

Overtime: 1-0

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 – N2G4 quarters

(A) Phillipsburg 21, Cranford 0 – N2G4 semis

Head coach: Erik Rosenmeier,

14th season

Section: North, Group 4

Conference: Mid-State 36

Division: Mountain, 3-2

Record: 6-4

Home: 3-1

Away: 3-3

Points for: 212

Points against: 197

Shutouts: 1

Overtime: 0-0

2019 CRANFORD COUGARS (3-2)

(H) Cranford 31, Montgomery 16

(A) Cranford 42, Scotch Plains 7

(H) Somerville 40, Cranford 7

(H) Cranford 31, Immaculata 8

(A) Rahway 46, Cranford 14

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,

15th season

Section: North, Group 4

Conference: Mid-State 37

Division: Raritan, 3-0

Record: 3-2

Home: 2-1

Away: 1-1

Points for: 125

Points against: 117

Shutouts: 0

Overtime: 0-0

CRANFORD’S 99 WINS

DURING HEAD COACH

ERIK ROSEMMEIER’S

TENURE BEGINNING 2005:

* Non-playoff seasons (6):

2005-2010

* Playoff seasons (8): 2011-2018

* Winning seasons (11):

2005, 2007, 2010-2018

* .500 seasons (1): 2006

* Under-.500 seasons (2):

2008, 2009

* 99-52 (.656) so far overall

* 75-26 (.743) so far this decade

REGULAR SEASON WINS

NOT COUNTING

CONSOLATION GAMES (83):

Scotch Plains 9

North Plainfield 8

Delaware Valley 8

Hillside 8

Gov. Livingston 7

Voorhees 7

Johnson 5

Roselle 5

Somerville 4

Summit 4

Westfield 2

Newark East Side 2

Newark Central 2

Kearny 2

Rahway 2

Warren Hills 2

Immaculata 2

Shabazz

St. Joseph’s of the Palisades

Watchung Hills

Montgomery

CONSOLATION WINS (6):

2005 Rumson-Fair Haven

2006 Montgomery

2007 Matawan

2008 Allentown

2009 Carteret

2010 Red Bank

NOTES: Cranford was a perfect 6-for-6 in

consolation games from 2005-2010.

PLAYOFF WINS (10):

2011 Colonia

2011 Parsippany Hills

2012 Palisades Park

2013 South Plainfield

2014 North Plainfield

2014 West Essex

2015 Voorhees

2015 Ridgefield Park

2015 Chatham

2018 Linden

NOTES: Cranford is 10-6 in the playoffs under

Erik Rosenmeier. The Cougars are 9-4 in North 2, Group 3,

1-1 in North 2, Group 4 and 0-1 in Central Jersey, Group 3 in that span.

* Wins against Union County schools is 43, including

one playoff victory over Linden.

* First win and first road win:

Saturday afternoon, Sept. 10, 2005 – 33-22 at Hillside

Rosenmeier’s first game at the helm of the Cougars.

* First home win:

Friday night, Sept. 30, 2005 – 26-23 (OT) vs. Scotch Plains

It was Rosenmeier’s second home game. The first was a

20-13 loss to Linden on Sept. 16, 2005.

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