CRANFORD, NJ — For the second straight year, the Cranford Cougars will open their football season with a home game against North Hunterdon Regional High School.
Last year’s season opener at Memorial Field didn’t disappoint, as Cranford High School came back from a 16-point deficit in the game’s final five minutes to force overtime and then won the game on a 20-yard touchdown run up the middle by standout senior running back Colin Murray, prevailing 43-37.
Murray ended up leading the entire state in rushing yards with 2,129. Cranford went on to win the North 2, Group 3 sectional state championship for the third time and did so with a perfect 11-0 record.
This year’s opener is one week ahead of last year’s and takes place on Labor Day weekend, Friday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.
The first official day of practice for all teams in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s website, is Wednesday, Aug. 10.
Cranford once again has an eight-game regular-season schedule for 2022. Some teams in New Jersey have nine-game schedules and some eight-game.
The playoff cutoff date weekend for public school teams in New Jersey is the third weekend in October, Oct. 21-22.
The three rounds of sectional playoffs are the last weekend in October and the first two in November. Sectional state championship games are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 12.
The first-ever group semifinals will be contested at sites to be determined on Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19.
Then the first-ever group finals are scheduled to be played at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway on Saturday, Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 4, which will be the final day of the 2022 season.
In the 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons, regional championship games took place following sectional state championship contests. There were no playoff games at all in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, for the first time, football in New Jersey will be played down to single public school state champions in groups 1 through 5.
The nonpublic school state finals are scheduled to be played Saturday, Nov. 26, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford — home of the New York Giants and New York Jets.
Cranford has one nonpublic school on its schedule this year. The Cougars will host St. Thomas Aquinas High School of North Edison on Friday, Sept. 23.
Fellow Union County opponents Cranford will clash against are Summit, Rahway, Scotch Plains–Fanwood and Linden high schools. Cranford played and defeated Summit, Scotch Plains–Fanwood and Linden last year.
The last time Cranford played a nonpublic school was in 2020, when the Cougars closed a pandemic-shortened 6-2 season with a 21-9 loss at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen.
The last time Cranford played Rahway was in 2019, when the Cougars were defeated by the Indians, 46-14, at Rahway River Park.
Cranford has produced 12 straight winning seasons and has made the state playoffs every year since 2011, not counting 2020, when there were no playoffs.
Head coach Erik Rosenmeier is entering his 18th season at the helm. He took over in 2005.
Cranford Cougars 2022 schedule:
• Friday, Sept. 2, vs. North Hunterdon, 7 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 10, at Summit, 1 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 16, at Woodbridge, 7 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 23, vs. St. Thomas Aquinas, 7 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 30, at Rahway, 7 p.m.
• Friday, Oct. 7, vs. Scotch Plains–Fanwood, 7 p.m.
• Friday, Oct. 14, at Linden, 7 p.m.
• Friday, Oct. 21, vs. North Brunswick, 7 p.m.
Photos by JR Parachini