CRANFORD— The visiting team will enter Memorial Field tomorrow night with a school-record 29-game regular season winning streak.
Three of those victories came against the home team.
The home team leads allUnionCountysquads with a five-game winning streak.
The visiting team won a third straight division title last year after beating the home team. The home team then went on to win the program’s first – playoff era – state championship
The visiting team I’m talking about isSummit, which has not lost a regular season game since November of 2008.
The home team I’m talking about is Cranford, which lost at home to Summit 52-21 last Oct. 28, but rebounded to win its next three games over opponents at game times that were a combined 22-4.Cranfordbeat those three foes – 7-0DelawareValley41-7 at home, 7-1 Colonia 34-7 on the road and 8-3 Parsippany Hills 27-0 at Kean – by a combined total of 102-14.
In a battle of 11-0 teams,Summitlost its final game last year to defending champion Madison 47-7 in the North 2, Group 2 final at Kean.
So,Summitwon the Mid-State 39 Conference’s East B (Mountain) Division title by beatingCranfordby 31 points, but then lost its state championship game by 40 points.
After losing the game for the division title toSummitby 31 points,Cranfordended up winning North 2, Group 3 by outscoring its two playoff opponents by 54 points.
But that was last year.
Now both will be battling tomorrow night for the lead in the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Raritan Division. Since both are now situated in North 2, Group 3, with Cranford the defending champion, the game will impact the section standings as well. Plus, now there’s always the possibility of a playoff rematch, so one or both teams may not show every play in their arsenal.
Both teams were 7-0 last year when they last clashed.
They are both now 2-0.
Cranford, according to head coach Erik Rosenmeier, has not come close to playing its best football yet after less-than-inspiring wins at home over Watchung Hills 17-14 and at division foeSomerville21-0. The Cougars are 1-0 in the Raritan Division.
Summitopened with a division win at home overSomerville41-7, but struggled offensively until the very end last Saturday before posting a come-from-behind 17-13 triumph over visiting division rival Johnson. The Hilltoppers lead the Raritan Division at 2-0.
“We’ll take it as just another game again,”Summitsenior running back A.J. Iarussi said.
Iarussi rushed for a game-high 157 yards on 18 carries vs. Johnson.
“It will be exciting to play them and they will be looking for payback.
“We have to give them the same effort we gave them last year and better.”
Summitsenior running back and standout placekicker Mike Badgley scored all of his team’s points against Johnson, including the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run with one minute to go.
Badgley also intercepted a pass and kicked a 29-yard field goal.
“It will be fun,” Badgley said. “We’ve gotten through a couple of games now and we’ll have to go back there to play them.
“Every year one of our goals is to win the conference, so this will be another big conference game for us.
“Plus, with us being in their section, we could see them again in the playoffs.”
Cranfordhead coach Erik Rosenmeier was at Tatlock Field in person to seeSummitcome back and beat Johnson, which is the school he graduated from in 1983 after playing for the Crusaders under head coach Steve Ciccotelli.
“We have not played our best football yet and know that we’ll have to be much better if we want to contend with a team likeSummit,” Rosenmeier said.
Cranford’s returning players remember the awful feeling after last year’s game. Give them credit, they were able to rebound in a way thatCranfordfootball never had done before.
“We get them on our home turf again and get another shot to get them,”Cranfordsenior quarterback Reggie Green said.
“After we lost to them last year we just had to go back to basics and play our game and not do too much.”
“Last year’s game was an eye-opener for us,” saidCranforddefensive lineman Chris Folinusz. Because of injuries on offense, Folinusz has lined up at running back.
“We felt pretty much invincible before last year’s game against them and were on a roll,” Folinsuz said. “We were undefeated and no one had stopped us before that game.
“Summitstuck it to us with their no huddle, they executed it perfectly. After that game we realized that we had to execute perfectly and that we had to do the little things right like they did.
“They were a great team last year and we’ll have to be ready for them this year.”
Summithead coach John Liberato said his team, “passed the test” by driving 98 yards to beat Johnson.
Another big test looms tomorrow night.
“We’ll have to be prepared once again for another good team,” Liberato said. “Look at whatCranforddid after they played us last year. They won a state championship.
“Like I always say, we’re going to try to get better than what we were the week before.”