SCOTCH PLAINS – There are moments that define a season.
For the Cranford football team, a third consecutive playoff campaign for the first time in program history might have been clinched by a player not known for being a part of such moments.
On fourth-and-seven from the Scotch Plains 30 with less than five minutes to go, Cranford junior Dan DeLayo made a play that allowed the Cougars to move forward on their way to another important victory.
DeLayo’s one-handed and then two-handed catch on the right side of the field – good for a 22-yard gain – kept an important drive alive that resulted in a key insurance touchdown as Cranford went on to produce a 34-14 win over Scotch Plains Saturday afternoon.
Cranford’s third win in a row – also sparked by a four-touchdown performance from junior running back Luke Christiano – improved its overall record to 4-2, with the Cougars still in second place in the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Raritan Division at 3-1.
Scotch Plains slipped to 2-4 overall and remains 1-3 and in fifth place in the Mountain Division.
Cranford has now defeated Scotch Plains four years in a row and has won eight of the last 11 games in the series since 2002. Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier, previously an assistant coach at Scotch Plains, is now 6-2 vs. the Raiders in his nine seasons at the helm of the Cougars, with the teams not facing each other in 2008.
Rosenmeier called a timeout before the fourth down play, with Cranford senior quarterback John Oblachinski taking the snap and first attempting to move to his left.
“I ran to the corner and turned around to try to get open,” said DeLayo of his only catch. “It wasn’t really one of our options. John was supposed to roll left, but then went the other way when he had no room.”
Oblachinski ended up rolling right and then saw DeLayo being covered by one player – Scotch Plains senior linebacker Sam McQuoid.
“We were in a bad situation on fourth and long,” Oblachinski said. “We knew we needed a first down and needed to make a big play.
“I threw it so that either Dan would catch it or it would go out of bounds. I didn’t really see Dan make the catch, but it was just a great catch and a big play for us.”
DeLayo first corralled the ball with his right hand and then brought it in with both hands when he fell down with it.
“It was probably the biggest catch in my life,” DeLayo said.
Two plays later, Oblachinski scored his only touchdown of the game on a three-yard run up the middle. He also had one touchdown pass to Christiano in the first quarter for Cranford’s first score.
Had DeLayo not made the catch, Scotch Plains would have taken over at its own 30 and had more than four minutes left to drive down the field and tie the game and then take the lead again.
Oblachinski, who came back from an ankle injury he suffered against Roselle which was also one that prevented him from playing the entire game at quarterback against DelawareValley, was sharp immediately. He completed all four of his passes for 56 yards and a touchdown on Cranford’s opening drive.
“The ankle’s all healed and I should be ready to go again vs. Ridge Friday night,” Oblachinski said.
Christiano rushed for touchdowns in the first, second and fourth quarters, scoring from four yards out in the first, 36 yards out in the second and down the left sideline from 66 yards away with 1:11 remaining.
Cranford senior placekicker-punter Troy Kettler made four of five extra points and had two punts for more than 50 yards in the third quarter, including the first for 52 and the second for 62.
The 62-yarder, which put the ball at the Scotch Plains 26 with 1:10 to go before the fourth quarter, was kicked so that it would remain in bounds on the right side and then continue to bounce forward once it hit the field turf.
It was a perfectly executed punt that had the right amount of hang time to prevent the Raiders from fielding and returning it.
Cranford defensive linemen Michael Pastor and Kevin McNeil applied pressure all game long, both making key tackles of Scotch Plains quarterback Emendo Thomas.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-INTERDIVISION GAME
CRANFORD (4-2) 13 7 0 14 – 34
SCOTCH PLAINS (2-4) 7 7 0 0 – 14
SCOTCH PLAINS – Kobe White 40 run, Andrew Ciccarino kick (SP 7-0)
1 play, 45 yards, :24 used
CRANFORD – Luke Christiano 15 pass from John Oblachinski, Troy Kettler kick (7-7)
CRANFORD – Luke Christiano 4 run, kick failed (C 13-7)
8 plays, 39 yards, 2:46 used
Cranford capitalized on a turnover – a fumble recovery by Jake Matthews.
CRANFORD – Luke Christiano 36 run, Troy Kettler kick (C 20-7)
4 plays, 62 yards, 1:52 used
SCOTCH PLAINS – Emendo Thomas 25 run, Andrew Ciccarino kick (C 20-14)
7 plays, 68 yards, 3:08 used
CRANFORD – John Oblachinski 3 run, Troy Kettler kick (C 27-14)
9 plays, 64 yards, 4:54 used
CRANFORD – Luke Christiano 66 run, Troy Kettler kick (C 34-14)
3 plays, 70 yards, :26 used
CRANFORD VS. SCOTCH PLAINS SINCE 2002:
2013:Cranford 34, Scotch Plains 14 – at Scotch Plains
2012:Cranford 26, Scotch Plains 20 – at Cranford
2011:Cranford 27, Scotch Plains 7 – at Scotch Plains
2010:Cranford 21, Scotch Plains 14 – at Cranford
2009:Scotch Plains 26, Cranford 24 – at Cranford
2008: Did not play.
2007:Scotch Plains 42, Cranford 20 – at Cranford
2006:Cranford 15, Scotch Plains 13 – at Scotch Plains
2005:Cranford 26, Scotch Plains 23 (OT) – at Cranford
2004:Cranford 28, Scotch Plains 14 – at Scotch Plains
2003:Scotch Plains 33, Cranford 22 – at Cranford
2002:Cranford 20, Scotch Plains 12 – at Scotch Plains