Cranford football posts impressive 2nd half comeback to notch first win; Roselle Park is Union County’s first 4-0 team

Linden sophomore quarterback Marshall produces 5TD game to remember

Elizabeth, Cranford and Roselle Park all won on the road at teams that were 2-0.

Not bad.

Linden also produced a huge road victory, winning in a shootout over a team it had not beaten since 2014.

Also not bad.

Johnson also defeated a team that was 2-0 – doing so at home – and is now 3-0 for the first time in 10 years.

Friday night Union County football on this Sept. 22 date saw seven Union County teams win, including four of them on the road. Two teams gained their first vctories.

At Cranford’s Memorial Field, the Cougars took on a red-hot 2-0 Rahway team in their home-opener. Cranford was shut out last week for the first time in nine years. Rahway came in with 12 touchdowns in two games.

Cranford did not score at all in the first half, with Rahway taking a two-touchdown lead going into the third quarter.

“We had given it our best shot in the first half and Rahway was better,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “They stopped us on offense and made a couple of big plays on our defense.

“I told our kids that although we were down it was only 14-0. We played pretty well on defense. We had to go out and play better.”

Cranford’s 24-14 comeback victory actually started with the very first play of the third quarter. The Cougars kicked off, with senior Valentino Ambrosio sending the ball through the end zone for a touchback.

Then a minute in Rahway turned the ball over and Cranford took advantage of the miscue by driving for its first touchdown – and points – in two weeks.

“We kicked off to start the second half and then got a turnover and scored,” Rosenmeier said. “Then we kicked off again, held them, got the ball back and scored again.

“Then we kicked off again, they didn’t score, we got the ball back and we went ahead for the first time in the third quarter.”

Starting at quarterback for Cranford in place of injured sophomore Connor Katz was senior Dan Curren, who replaced Katz last week at Voorhees when Katz went down with a broken arm. At Ridge, Curren scored Cranford’s second touchdown on the ground.

“We had a good running game and Dan did a good job running the ball,” Rosenmeier said.

Rosenmeier reported that Cranford only passed for two yards, but rushed for 365.

Rosenemeier also said that Curren cramped up in the third quarter and was replaced at quarterback by junior James Shriner.

“We moved the ball and got first downs in the second half,” Rosenmeier said. “We had one drive in the second half that ate up a lot of the clock. Unfortunately, a field goal of around 40 yards by Ambrosio was no good.”

Cranford junior left cornerback Dante Cassaro halted a Rahway drive by coming up with a big interception. He returned the pick some 20 yards.

“Dante made a big play there for us, which led to our field goal,” Rosenmeier said.

This time Ambrosio’s field goal attempt of 41 yards was good, putting Cranford ahead 24-14 with a little more than three minutes left. Rosenmeier said the kick – which was booted into the wind – had plenty of leg and went out of the end zone.

Another Cranford interception – this time by senior free safety Anthony Araujo – clinched the victory with a minute to go.

“Valentino’s kicks through the end zone were big because Rahway kept on starting from its own 20 and that allowed us to play a little loose on defense,” Rosenmeier said. “This was just a huge win for our kids.”

Cranford is now 1-2 overall and 1-2 in the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Mountain Division. Rahway is now 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain Division.

“I’m really proud of how we played,” Rosenmeier said. “The seniors really stepped up.

“This was just one win, however. Are we going to continue to move forward now is the next question?”

Katz was on the sidelines with his teammates, happy that the Cougars won.

“Connor had surgery today (on his broken right arm) and was there at the game supporting the team,” Rosenmeier said. “That says a lot about the kid.”

The medical procedure was that Katz had surgery Friday to have a plate and screws put in to stabilize the break. This was determined to be needed after a follow up visit with his doctor on Wednesday.

The doctor said that because Connor’s arm was so muscular it was pulling on the bone and causing it to move. Surgery was very successful and the doctor said that there is a good possibility he will be able to play again this year.

“I’m hopeful that Connor can play again (this year), but I’m not going to put the kid in a position to if he is not completely ready,” Rosenmeier said. “I’m not a doctor. It’s surprising to me that he can come back from that.

“But if it’s possible I’m all for it. I don’t want any of my kids to be hurt.”

 

LINDEN OUTSCORES HOST RIDGE FOR SECOND STRAIGHT WIN

Linden lost at home to Ridge 34-12 last year and at Ridge 45-27 two years ago.

Friday night in Basking Ridge once again, the Tigers this time gave up 48 points. Fortunately for Linden it wasn’t enough for the Red Devils.

Linden outslugged Ridge 55-48, scoring the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers were led by sophomore, first-year quarterback Zion Marshall, who carried the ball 11 times for 267 yards and five touchdowns. He also completed touchdown passes to senior wide receivers Luis Rodriguez and Markel McDuffie.

Rodriguez also returned a punt for a touchdown.

Marshall, who scored the game-winning touchdown with about 2:40 to go, produced one of Linden’s best away-from-home offensive efforts in some time.

“It was an electric performance, very impressive,” Linden head coach Al Chiola said. “Zion was everything we hoped he would be coming into the season. He was a real leader and he kept the sideline going.”

Linden trailed 48-47 when Marshall scored his fifth and final touchdown. Junior running back BJ George followed with a two-point run for the game’s final points.

“Zion did everything you can ask for in a quarterback,” Chiola said. “His strength is in his legs, but we were more impressed with his throws.”

Chiola said that George finished with 95 yards rushing and Linden with a whopping team total of 421.

“It was really just one of those games that was going to be determined by who had the ball last had the best chance,” Chiola said. “We couldn’t stop them and they had a hard time stopping us.

“Our kids had a lot of fight in them.”

The final Ridge possession – and final possession of the game – was halted by Linden with Ridge still in its own territory.

Linden is now 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the Watchung Division. Ridge is now 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the Watchung Division.

 

JOHNSON TAKES OVER SOLE POSSESSION OF FIRST IN VALLEY DIVISION

For the second straight season Valley Division foes Johnson and Roselle met with each team 2-0 overall and 2-0 in the Valley.

Last year’s high-scoring game went to Roselle 56-41 at Roselle’s Arminio Field.

Friday night’s game at Johnson’s Nolan Field was more of the defensive variety, with Johnson winning this time by the score of 23-13.

Johnson took a 7-0 lead when Mike Bruno connected with Brandon Rapp for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Roselle tied it at 7-7 when senior Craig McRae scored and the Rams added the extra point.

A field goal by Mike Casalino gave Johnson its second lead of 10-7.

Roselle answered again with its second and final score, this one a touchdown run by junior running back Khair Pendleton that gave Roselle its only lead of 13-10.

Near the end of the third quarter Rapp intercepted a deep pass thrown by Roselle senior quarterback Quraan Dixon.

Johnson senior running back Kevin Metz then produced a 40-yard run before his five-yard gain for a touchdown gave Johnson its third lead and the advantage for good at 16-13.

After the Crusaders stopped Roselle once again, Johnson senior running back Joe Turek scored the game’s final touchdown on a six-yard run.

Down 16-13, Roselle was about to go for it on fourth-and-one before a penalty pushed the visiting Rams back five yards. That forced a change in strategy, Roselle punting the ball away instead.

Johnson is now 3-0 for the first time since 2007 and also leads the Valley Division at 3-0. Roselle is 2-1 overall and 2-1 in the Valley. Roselle won the Valley Division a year ago with a perfect 5-0 league mark.

 

ROSELLE PARK WINS BATTLE OF UNBEATENS THIS TIME

For the second straight season – just like Johnson vs. Roselle – Roselle Park and Belvidere met when both teams were undefeated.

Last year Belvidere stopped Roselle Park and held on for a 24-20 win at Herm Shaw Field. Friday night the visiting Panthers were in control on the scoreboard en route to a 35-0 Union Division triumph.

Roselle Park, Union County’s only 4-0 team and also Union County’s only team with a shutout victory, faced a Belvidere squad that – according to Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty – was playing without its starting quarterback. Hanratty said the player was injured in last week’s 18-15 division win at Brearley.

“In Group 1 football when you play somebody one week and get guys banged up, you have a tough time,” Hanratty said.

Senior tailback Dylan Camilo rushed for three touchdowns, while junior quarterback Patrick Gergich connected with senior wide receiver Enzo Brutus for two passing touchdowns.

“Camilo did a great job and Gergich to Brutus was working for us,” Hanratty said. “We battled all game long. Our kids did a nice job.

“With a Group 1 football team, sometimes you just want to stay healthy, which is more important than wins and losses.”

Hanratty said senior wingback Abel Crespo rushed for 80 yards and that the senior offensive line – led by the likes of Sean Matthews, Jawahn Gasque and Oniks Fazliiu – was very instrumental in providing an edge.

“Our whole line is seniors and then you throw in tight end-linebacker Devin Hilburn, another senior,” Hanratty said. “It was a team effort.

“We were happy to come away with a 35-0 win, especially since the bus ride was so long. We know they (Belvidere) have a good program.”

Since the formation of the Mid-State in 2009, Roselle Park was previously 0-6 vs. Bound Brook in the regular season and 0-1 vs. the County Seaters in the North 2, Group 1 playoffs. The teams did not face each other in 2012 and 2013.

“The seniors were happy to get over the Belvidere hump,” Hanratty said. “All the linemen stepped up to the challenge. It’s all about the team.”

Roselle Park didn’t need any extra motivation in order to be enthusiastic about playing an undefeated division rival. However, the Panthers – according to Hanratty – came across a press release during the week that Roselle Park didn’t find too flattering. The Panthers used it as bulletin board material to fire them up even more before facing

Belvidere for the seventh time in the regular season since 2009.

What Hanratty is referring to is what follows here, with this excerpt attributed to lehighvalleylive.com reporter Brad Wilson:

“I’d take a school like Belvidere over a school like Roselle Park at any time,” Belvidere senior running back-safety Tyler Gilmartin said. “We’re all brothers and this field (Dominic Colangelo Stadium) will be jumping Friday. We are all looking forward to playing a game here in the heart of Belvidere.”

“When I read the press release I thought to myself, ‘how do they know we’re not as close as they are,’” Hanratty said?

Roselle Park will next prepare for Brearley, with the Panthers to host the Bears next Friday night at 7.

“Will we be ready for Brearley? Brearley is a big game for us, perhaps the biggest game of the year. It could be for the (Union) division championship,” Hanratty said.

Roselle Park’s next two games may determine who wins the Union Division. Roselle Park is at defending champion Bound Brook Oct. 6.

“We’re just hoping to stay healthy and to take the season just one week at a time,” Hanratty said. “It will be a long year. In any sport you have to go with what you have.

“I would rather be lucky than good any day of the week.”

Hanratty credits associate head coach Greg Dunkerton as being “the glue that keeps Roselle Park together.”

Dunkerton has coached with Hanratty since Hanratty’s first year as head coach at Governor Livingston in 2004.

 

ELIZABETH, WESTFIELD, BREARLEY TRIUMPH; UNION AND SUMMIT FALL

Elizabeth defeated Union for the third time in four years, downing the Farmers 42-26 in its home-opener.

The Minutemen are now tied with Westfield for the Watchung Division lead, both now at 2-0. Elizabeth has won two straight and is 2-1 overall. Union is 2-1 overall and also 2-1 in the Watchung Division.

Westfield won at Franklin 23-7, producing its second straight 23-7 road victory.

Westfield’s defense, very stingy again this season, has allowed only two scores in its first three games.

Westfield has now won a state-leading 28 straight, has also captured 22 consecutive regular season games and has won 14 regular season road games in a row.

Summit was defeated at Warren Hills 20-17. The Hilltoppers are now 1-2 for the first time since 2008, the year before the formation of the Mid-State.

Brearley won at South Hunterdon 41-13 to improve to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the Union Division. In last year’s game at Brearley, the host Bears won 47-0, which was the only time they scored in the 40s and the only time they produced a shutout victory.

 

UNION COUNTY FOOTBALL

 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 22 (results)

 

Elizabeth 42, Union 26 – at Elizabeth

 

Westfield 23, Franklin 7 – at Franklin

 

Linden 55, Ridge 48 – at Ridge

 

Warren Hills 20, Summit 17 – at Warren Hills

 

Cranford 24, Rahway 14 – at Cranford

 

Johnson 23, Roselle 13 – at Johnson

 

Roselle Park 35, Belvidere 0 – at Belvidere

 

Brearley 41, South Hunterdon 13 – at South Hunterdon

 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 23 (6 games)

 

Plainfield at Hillsborough, 1 p.m.

 

Immaculata at Scotch Plains, 1 p.m.

 

North Plainfield at Gov. Livingston, 1 p.m.

 

Bernards at Hillside, 1 p.m.

 

Delaware Valley at New Providence, 1 p.m.

 

Dayton at Manville, 1 p.m.

 

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