CRANFORD, NJ — The next three Friday nights will determine whether or not Cranford High School football continues two very important streaks.
For starters, the Cougars have produced winning seasons each and every year from 2010 until the present. That’s 12 straight and counting.
Then there’s the playoff streak. Not counting the 2020 season, because there were no playoffs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cranford has qualified every year since 2011. That’s 10 in a row and seeking more.
Cranford is 3-2 and has won three of its last four since opening with a 34-7 home loss at North Hunterdon Regional High School. The Lions are one of the best teams in the Big Central Conference and stand at 5-1, with their only loss to Phillipsburg High School, which is 5-0.
Cranford is preparing for the United Gold Division game at home vs. Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School on Friday, Oct. 7. Kickoff at Memorial Field is scheduled for 7 p.m. This is Cranford’s final division game. A win would clinch second place for the Cougars. At 3-0 and with a 27-24 win at Cranford, St. Thomas Aquinas High School has won the division outright. St. Thomas Aquinas will close division play with a home game vs. Rahway High School on Friday, Oct. 7.
The next two Friday nights for the Cranford Cougars include games at Linden High School on Oct. 14 and at home vs. North Brunswick High School on Oct. 21. Linden is 3-2 and North Brunswick 5-0.
“Our schedule certainly is challenging,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “There are no breaks. If you are not ready, there are some teams that can embarrass you.
“That has been a good thing for us, as we are a team that has a lot of first-year players. These teams have our kids’ attention, and I think that has accelerated our growth.”
Scotch Plains–Fanwood is 1-5 and on a five-game losing streak since opening at home on Aug. 26 with a 38-16 win against North Plainfield High School. The Raiders have scored exactly 38 points during their five-game losing streak. On Sept. 30 at home, Scotch Plains–Fanwood lost to Summit High School, 22-7, in BCC–United Gold Division play.
While Scotch Plains–Fanwood was struggling again, Cranford was pulling away at Rahway, 35-0, on Sept. 30. It was Cranford’s first shutout since blanking J.P. Stevens High School of Edison, 41-0, at home on Oct. 18, 2019, in the game that was Rosenmeier’s 100th victory.
In Godwin Cranford trusts
Cranford senior all-purpose player Liam Godwin produced a game to remember at Rahway. From his quarterback position, he was in on all five Cougar touchdowns, throwing for two and rushing for the other three.
Godwin completed four-of-five passes for 146 yards, with his longest pass covering 61 yards. Catching touchdown passes were junior halfback Ryan Carracino for 61 yards and senior tailback Ryan Lynskey for 38.
“If he’s not our best athlete, he’s one of our best,” Rosenmeier said. “We weren’t quite sure if he had the skill set to be quarterback, but he worked hard on it in the off-season and has gotten better and better each week. He’s much more comfortable now with the weight of the game on him.”
Godwin also carried the ball nine times for a game-leading 126 yards. He scored on runs of 7 in the first quarter, 71 in the second and 32 in the third.
From his cornerback position on defense he assisted two tackles and came up with the game’s only interception.
As Cranford’s placekicker he was a perfect five-for-five on extra points. He also punted twice, his second one shifting field position in Cranford’s favor to lead to the final Cougar touchdown.
“I think we take his kicking for granted at times,” Rosenmeier said. “We gained 30 yards in transactions on his two punts.”
Godwin did it all to assist in putting Cranford at more than .500 at 3-2.
“He had a real good night running the ball against Rahway,” Rosenmeier said. “His passing has made us a much more effective football team.”
Cougars have dominated Raiders of late
Cranford has won the last eight times it has gone up against Scotch Plains–Fanwood, including a 20-6 win at Cranford a year ago.
Rosenmeier is 10-2 vs. Scotch Plains–Fanwood since he took over at Cranford in 2005, after serving as assistant football coach and athletic director at Scotch Plains–Fanwood. There were five years where the Union County rivals did not play.
Scotch Plains–Fanwood last beat Cranford on Sept. 12, 2009, at Cranford, which was the season opener for both. The Raiders came away with a 26-24 victory at Memorial Field but would go on to lose their next eight games before finishing 2-8. Cranford went 4-6.
Rosenmeier played at Arthur L. Johnson Regional High School for head coach Steve Ciccotelli in the early 1980s. Ciccotelli was the head coach at Scotch Plains–Fanwood in 2009.
The history of Cranford vs. Scotch Plains–Fanwood back to the 2005 season:
• 2021: Cranford 20, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 6, at Cranford.
• 2020: Did not play.
• 2019: Cranford 42, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 7, at Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
• 2018: Did not play.
• 2017: Cranford 43, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 42 (OT), at Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
• 2016: Cranford 40, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 14, at Cranford.
• 2015: Did not play.
• 2014: Did not play.
• 2013: Cranford 34, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 14, at Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
• 2012: Cranford 26, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 20, at Cranford.
• 2011: Cranford 27, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 7, at Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
• 2010: Cranford 21, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 14, at Cranford.
• 2009: Scotch Plains–Fanwood 26, Cranford 24, at Cranford.
• 2008: Did not play.
• 2007: Scotch Plains–Fanwood 42, Cranford 20, at Cranford.
• 2006: Cranford 15, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 13, at Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
• 2005: Cranford 26, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 23 (OT), at Cranford.
Cranford now fourth in North, Group 3 power points
Gridiron New Jersey released its latest United Power Rankings on Monday, Oct. 3, following the Week 5 games, and has Cranford listed fourth in the North, Group 3 standings.
West Morris Central High School is first at 6-0, Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan High School is second at 5-0 and Hillside High School is third at 4-1. West Morris captured the North 1, Group 3 state championship last year and then defeated North 2, Group 3 state champ Cranford in the North, Group 3 regional championship game at Giants Stadium.
West Morris was the top seed in North 1, Group 3 last year, and Cranford was the top seed in North 2, Group 3, which the Cougars captured for the third time.
“Last year, because of the team we had, we had a much clearer vision of where we were going to end up,” Rosenmeier said. “This year, with a younger team not quite as dominant, there’s a bit of uncertainty. We have to stick to the one-game-at-a-time approach.”
If Cranford wins two of its final three games that count toward qualifying, there’s a good chance the Cougars would at least be at home for a first-round playoff encounter on the final weekend in October.
Photo by JR Parachini