SUMMIT – With an offense averaging nearly 40 points, Summit quite often provides the knockout punch by getting in the end zone four to five times before intermission.
Teams have a difficult time containing a no-huddle offense that spreads the ball either running or passing it.
On Saturday in the North 2, Group 3 semifinal played at Tatlock Field, the host Hilltoppers were scoring again as soon as the game started, but so was visiting Cranford.
That meant that Summit had to step up its game on defense in order to get past a Cranford team wanting to prove that it was much better than the effort it gave against the Hilltoppers back on Sept. 27.
With the game tied and after Summit was finally stopped by Cranford on back-to-back possessions, the Hilltoppers managed to take the lead for the third time right before halftime.
Then when Cranford again had a chance to take the lead for the first time with the first second-half possession, Summit’s defense came up big when it had to.
The Hilltoppers halted Cranford on a fourth-and-one and then just four plays later reached the end zone for a fourth time to take complete control.
Once again Summit continued its dominance over Cranford, this time in the first playoff meeting between the UnionCounty rivals. Since 2009, Summit is now 6-0 vs. Cranford.
Sparked by a three-touchdown performance from senior running back Colm Dougherty and another fine game by senior quarterback Charlie Terry, who again equally ran and passed the ball quite well in addition to scoring two touchdowns, second-seeded and defending champion Summit downed sixth-seeded Cranford 35-14 to advance to its second straight N2, G3 final.
Summit won for the 23rd straight time and improved to 11-0 for the third consecutive season. The Hilltoppers have the longest winning streak in the state.
Cranford’s 2013 season came to a close at 7-4, with two losses to Summit and two others to Group 5 schools Watchung Hills and Ridge.
Summit will next take on fourth-seeded Parsippany Hills in the N2, G3 final in two weeks. Summit won the section last year for the third time and first time since 1980. Cranford won the section two years ago for the first time.
Parsippany Hills is still seeking its first championship in the playoff era. The Vikings lost in the 2011 N2, G3 final to Cranford 27-0 at Kean. Parsippany Hills is 0-3 in state championship games.
Summit will be appearing in a state championship game for the third straight season and for the fourth time in the past five. The Hilltoppers are now 55-2 since the start of the 2009 season, with only one loss at home, which was in overtime in the playoffs.
Summit is the only UnionCounty school to finish 12-0 twice and in two weeks will seek to accomplish the feat in consecutive years for the first time. The only time Summit captured back-to-back championships in the playoff era was in 1993 and 1994 when the Hilltoppers won North 2, Group 2 both of those seasons.
Opposed to Sept. 27 when Cranford trailed 48-7 at the half en route to falling 48-14, this time the Cougars were in the game when the third quarter began. Down 20-14, Cranford took the second half kickoff and began from its own 32.
On fourth-and-one from its own 41, senior quarterback John Oblachinski took the hand off and tried to move forward for the first down. He didn’t get it.
“I thought we played well defensively, but I didn’t do a good job of calling our offense,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “I wish I could have had a couple of offensive calls back, including that play. I didn’t do a good job there.”
Dougherty scored his second touchdown shortly after the big Summit stop.
“Stopping Cranford there was a huge momentum swing,” Summit first-year head coach Kevin Kostibos said. “It was a bunch of guys in the middle all keying on No. 12 (Oblachinski).
“We followed that with the most important drive of the season.”
After Terry ran for scores to conclude Summit’s first two possessions, Cranford came right back with a five-yard touchdown run by Oblachinski and a 35-yard touchdown pass by Oblachinski to Jack McCaffery. A 16-yard option pass by lefty-throwing Donovan Walker to McCaffery was a key first down on Cranford’s first scoring drive.
Dougherty scored the game’s final touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I think our defense did a good job all day, but our offense just came up short, failing to score on a couple of drives,” Rosenmeier said.
Summit scored touchdowns all seven times it had the ball in the first half in the regular season meeting and then again the first two times it had the ball Saturday. However, Cranford’s defense clamped down and made it much more difficult for the Hilltoppers to run away with it.
“You all saw what happened back in September, so I think we showed that we got better every week,” Rosenmeier said. “We lost a lot of good players from last year and plugged guys in this year and they did a good job.
“We felt we had a great chance to win this game and advance and that’s what we set out to do. We didn’t want to get down by two scores.”
Summit has won 10 of its 11 games by double digits. Kostibos thought his team, with many first-year starters, had a great deal of potential when the season commenced.
“When you say we’re 11-0 again, I’m speechless,” Kostibos said. “We didn’t start with a ton of experience.
“We have a quarterback who doesn’t have blazing speed, but is a good quarterback and gets the job done.”
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to give Parsippany Hills our best effort.”
NORTH 2, GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL AT TATLOCK FIELD
6-CRANFORD (7-4) 14 0 0 0 – 14
2-SUMMIT (11-0) 14 6 8 7 – 35
SUMMIT – Charlie Terry 5 run, Jack Johnson kick (S 7-0)
7 plays, 54 yards, 1:52 used
CRANFORD – John Oblachinski 5 run, Troy Kettler kick (7-7)
9 plays, 69 yards, 3:31 used
SUMMIT – Charlie Terry 2 run, Jack Johnson kick (S 14-7)
8 plays, 65 yards, 2:10 used
CRANFORD – Jack McCaffery 35 pass from John Oblachinski, Troy Kettler kick (14-14)
6 plays, 73 yards, 2:06 used
SUMMIT – Colm Dougherty 2 run, kick failed (S 20-14)
SUMMIT – Colm Dougherty 1 run, Andrew Masterfano pass from Charlie Terry (S 28-14)
4 plays, 41 yards, 1:01 used
SUMMIT – Colm Dougherty 1 run, Jack Johnson kick (S 35-14)
12 plays, 87 yards, 5:14 used