CRANFORD – Can the Summit Hilltoppers – after consecutive close calls – continue their school record regular season winning streak this weekend? Summit has now won 30 straight regular season games.
Summit is preparing for a North Plainfield team it will face tomorrow night at 7 at North Plainfield’s Krausche Field on Route 22 East.
North Plainfield is 1-2 and coming off a 28-12 home loss to Somerville last Friday night.
Summit opened with a 41-7 home win over Somerville on Sept. 8 and then came back to beat Johnson 17-13 at home seven days later before topping a 2-0 Cranford squad 30-27 last Friday night at Cranford’s Memorial Field.
This will be the second matchup between Summit and North Plainfield since the formation of the Mid-State 39 Conference in 2009.
It’s now the Mid-State 38 Conference this year, with both teams situated in the Raritan Division.
Summit is 3-0 and leads the Raritan Division at 3-0.
North Plainfield is 1-2 in the Raritan.
Summit’s last regular season loss was a 37-12 setback at West Essex on Nov. 7, 2008 in Iron Hills Conference-Hills Division play.
In 2009 on Oct. 31, Summit defeated North Plainfield 48-21 at home to improve to 8-0.
The visiting Canucks, still coached by Robert Lake, fell to 2-5.
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Here’s how last Friday night’s victory was accomplished:
Summit senior Mike Badgley thought the 40-yard field goal he attempted in the first quarter was good, even though the refs called it wide right.
So when he lined up for a 42-yarder to give Summit the lead once more with just 26 seconds left, he was completely confident he was going to put this one clearly through the uprights.
“I wasn’t thinking much when it came time to kick it,” Badgley said.
Long snapper Nick Liberato got the ball perfectly to holder Andrew Masterfano and Badgley then came through with his second field goal of the season to lift visiting Summit past Cranford 30-27 Friday night in a Mid-State 38 Conference clash at Memorial Field between undefeated Raritan Division squads.
To put an exclamation point on the victory, Badgley – on the game’s final play – intercepted a pass at the 50-yard line.
The game-winning field goal was set up by a return of a squib kick to the Cranford 45 by Masterfano, who is the holder for Badgley on all of his extra points and field goals.
Badgley gained three yards on first down and then the ball was moved to the Cranford 27 after the only Cougar penalty of the second half, which was a face mask call.
Two plays later, Badgley gained two more yards before Summit and then Cranford called timeouts. Badgley made his kick on third-and-nine from the Cranford 25.
Badgley, who this time next year could be kicking field goals 3,000 miles away, set the Summit single season record of most field goals with seven last year. Two years ago in a 17-13 come-from-behind division home win over Cranford, Badgley kicked a school-record 49-yard field goal to extend his team’s one-point lead.
Summit improved to 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the Raritan Division. The Hilltoppers have now won 30 straight regular season games – which is a school record – and could be on their way to a fourth consecutive division championship.
Four of Summit’s wins in the streak have come over Cranford.
Cranford had Union County’s longest winning streak snapped at five games and is now 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the Raritan Division. Since winning the final game of their 2010 season, the Cougars are 13-2, with both losses coming at home to Summit, including last year’s 52-21 setback.
In addition to Badgley’s heroics, the game featured dynamic performances by seniors A.J. Iarussi of Summit and Reggie Green of Cranford.
The Colgate-bound Iarussi, who was held to 38 yards on 12 carries in the first 24 minutes, finished with 150 yards on 26 carries and three third-quarter touchdowns.
“This was a tough game,” Iarussi said. “Both teams really went at it.”
“He’s a beast,” Summit head coach John Liberato said. “He’s very hard to tackle once he hits the hole.”
Green, who in the first half rushed for 67 yards on 13 carries including a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, finished with 227 yards on 29 attempts. He carried 16 times for 160 yards in the second half, including a thrilling 84-yard TD run in the third quarter and an equally exciting 10-yard scoring run in the fourth.
“Six times we had him bottled up and then he changes direction,” Liberato said. “What’s even better about Reggie is that he’s a great kid.”
Green, who has not given a college a verbal commitment yet, also completed a 45-yard touchdown pass and an ensuing two-point pass both to senior Chris Folinusz when Cranford made a valiant comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter to tie the game with 15 unanswered points.
Cranford turned the ball over four times – twice on fumbles and twice on interceptions – in the second half and had five turnovers for the game. Recovering two fumbles for Summit was senior linebacker Austin Carbone, while Badgley and senior defensive back Will Shamm picked off passes.
Coming up with an athletic, one-handed interception of a Badgley pass in the first quarter was Folinusz.
Summit played the game minus the services of senior quarterback Tyler Carbone and senior running back-punter Kyre Negron, who were out with injuries sustained in last week’s come-from-behind 17-13 division home win over Johnson. Liberato said that Carbone (ankle) and Negron (shoulder) did not practice at all this week and that he hopes to have both of them back for Summit’s division game tomorrow night at North Plainfield.
Summit’s only completed pass of the game was thrown by junior Charlie Terry and it was a big one. The third-quarter pass – thrown perfectly over the shoulder of Austin Carbone, who came down with it against single coverage – was a 37-yard reception to the Cranford 3.
On the very next play, Iarussi followed with the second of his three third-quarter TDs.
For Summit, it was a second consecutive victory that was produced very late in the fourth quarter.
“The field goal was very satisfying because we faced adversity again and found a way to win once more,” Badgley said.
Liberato predicted that Badgley would make a game-winning field goal the way he did.
“I knew it,” Liberato said.
Liberato also said that he would have attempted a field goal of a maximum 50 yards.
“Cranford is well-coached and you have to give them credit for the way they came back,” Liberato said. “We also showed that we have the desire to play hard until the end.”
NOTES: Cranford junior placekicker Troy Kettler could not have kicked a better onsides kick to help give Cranford the ball back with 4:52 left.
He kicked the ball from the right side of the field to the left, with the ball bouncing high up in the air and actually hitting off the helmet of a Summit player.
Cranford senior Robert Kessler recovered the loose ball, giving Cranford a first-and-10 at the Summit 45.
Kettler also made two tackles on Summit kickoff returns and tied the game at 27-27 with his only extra point when Cranford decided to go for the tie instead of the win with a two-point attempt.
In essence, Cranford went for the win with Kettler tying the game with his extra point. First Cranford wanted to tie the game and then hope to make something happen in the final seconds of regulation or overtime.