Magera, Ali, Santino, and Barrons Defense Shuts Down Cougars
CRANFORD, NJ—On Friday night, a huge match-up in the Big Central Football Conference took place at Memorial Field in Cranford as the Cougars hosted the Woodbridge Barrons in a battle of unbeatens. The game marked only the fifth time that these two schools met on the gridiron, and the first meeting since 1947. Cranford entered the meeting with a 3-1 record all time versus Woodbridge with two victories in 1916 and one in 1946 while the Barrons won the last encounter 73 years ago.
This game pitted two undefeated teams in the newly formed Big Central Football Conference’s Division 5A, and teams ranked in the most recent Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Top Ten Media Poll. The contest started out with a frenetic pace as each team scored twice in the first quarter, but Woodbridge’s defense took control and settled things down. Trailing 14-7 late in the first period, the Barrons got a huge defensive play from Justin Magera in the form of a 79 yard interception return with just under 34 seconds in the frame, and didn’t allow Cranford to score a point the rest of the way en route to a 27-14 victory.
Magera, who caught a 49 yard bomb from Anthony Santino to tie the game at 7-7 with about eight minutes to play in the first quarter, finished with 8 catches for 81 yards along with his interception return for a TD, and made three extra points to account for 15 of Woodbridge’s 27 points. Magera’s interception and subsequent return for touchdown was the pivotal play of the game. Trailing Cranford 14-7, and with the Cougars driving deep into Woodbridge territory for another potential score, Magera’s defensive gem resulted in a 10 to 14 point turnaround. In the final analysis, Magera’s pick six proved to be the difference.
Woodbridge standout running back, Ali Lee Jr., who recently announced his commitment to attend Stony Brook University on Long Island earlier this month, made bone jarring hits on defense, helped the Barrons control the field position game with his punting, and punished Cranford’s defense in the second half with a relentless running style en route to 205 yards on 33 carries. Averaging 6.2 yards per carry for the game, Lee Jr., essentially sealed the Barrons victory with a 21 yard touchdown run with 11:16 to play in the fourth.
Another huge key to Woodbridge’s win over Cranford on Friday night was the quarterback play of senior Santino. His ability to make big plays through the air was another line of demarcation between the Barrons and the Cougars. Santino completed two-thirds of his passing attempts for 157 yards including two touchdown tosses. One of those TD passes gave the Barrons the lead for good at 20-14 when he connected with Treyshon Fudge for a 37 yard score with 2:32 remaining in the first half.
Fudge finished with four receptions for 62 yards while teammate Eric Mapoy came up with a huge interception late in the 2nd period to help preserve the Barrons advantage. The Barrons defense anchored by the likes of Zack Smolder, Dylon Edwards, Jayson Bradley, and Amir Wallace also combined for three sacks. Cranford countered with two sacks of their own courtesy of Nick Libera and Kevin Keogh while Luke Infante intercepted a Santino pass with under 6 minutes to play in the first quarter that led to a go ahead touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone by Arjun Petrgrave at the 4:58 mark of the first.
Over the final 40:58 of the contest, Woodbridge outscored Cranford by a margin of 20-0. The Barrons had another chance to score more points, but missed a field goal midway through the second. Cranford had its share of opportunities as well. Besides the late first quarter drive that was halted by Magera’s interception, the Cougars had chances to get either a field goal or a touchdown in both the 3rd and 4th quarters, but weren’t able to capitalize. In the 3rd, Cranford moved deep into Woodbridge territory after a long pass from Dennis DeMarino to Jack Conley.
However, the drive stalled at about the 7 minute mark thanks to penalties against the Cougars, and was ultimately halted when a DeMarino pass to Petgrave in the end zone on 4th down was just a bit too long. After Lee’s TD run early in the fourth, Cranford pushed the ball downfield again, and got a break when Woodbridge was called for a pass interference penalty on fourth down. The Cougars managed to get into striking distance, but the Barrons came up with a huge sack of Shane VanDam on the ensuing first down play, and after a 2nd down completion for a short gain, Cranford turned the ball over on downs with about two minutes left.
With the victory, Woodbridge, which has been ranked atop of the GMC Gridiron Top Ten from the start of the season, improved to 3-0 overall on the 2020 campaign while Cranford, which opened the season with smashing victories over J.F. Kennedy (44-7), Ridge (42-19), and Linden (37-7), dropped to 3-1. The Barrons defense limited Cranford to 27 points below its season average entering the contest. In addition, Woodbridge has won its three games by a combined total of 102-33, or an average of 34 to 11.
Woodbridge, which has now won the last two meetings in the all time series with Cranford, now sits along in first place in Division 5A of the Big Central. Both the Barrons and the Cougars return to action next Friday night as Woodbridge travels to Clifton for a 7:00 PM game while Cranford visits Colonia for a 7:00 PM contest. Clifton (31-20) and Woodbridge (34-0) both defeated Colonia earlier in the season while Cranford cruised past a Linden (37-7) team that the Patriots edged (20-16) on Friday night.
DID YOU KNOW? Both Woodbridge and Cranford compete in the North Jersey Group 4 section. So, not only will they play each other again for the time being in the Big Central’s Division 5A, but could also eventually match-up in the post-season when things return to normal. Cranford holds a 3-2 series edge, and has outscored Woodbridge by an overall margin of 80-61, or an average of 16-10. The Cougars won the first three meetings by a combined score of 54-9 while the Barrons have won the last two by a combined score of 52-26.
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