Cougars Host Patriots in a Key Big Central Conference Division 4 Match-Up
CRANFORD, NJ—Last week, Big Central Gridiron featured the Colonia Patriots in its team profile, and discussed how the Pats have returned to contention with its solid start including a surprising 38-7 victory over Edison in Week 2. Following the BCG story, the Patriots added another win with a hard fought victory over Linden last Friday night (23-14).
Colonia has another stern test awaiting them this Friday night as they travel back up into Union County to take on the Cranford Cougars at Memorial Field in another important BCC Division 4 contest. The last time Big Central Gridiron visited Memorial Field, the Cougars battled Colonia’s neighborhood rival Woodbridge in a showdown for first place in the BCC Division 4 and for the top spot in the BCC polls. Woodbridge emerged victorious with a 27-14 win on October 23, 2020. Could Colonia come up with the huge road win this time?
Cranford enters the contest at 4-0, and is ranked 8th in the latest Big Central Gridiron Top 10, and is currently 2nd in the last BCG Union County Top 10. Meanwhile, Colonia is 4-1, and is ranked 5th in the latest BCG Middlesex County Top 10, and was one of the teams considered, but not ranked in the recent BCG Top 10. Both teams played each other a year ago at Ctown with the Cougars escaping with a 17-7 win.
Entering Friday night’s contest, Cranford and Colonia have only played each other twice before. Before clashing last season, the two team’s had only met prior in the 2011 North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 semifinals. In that game, Cranford, led by then junior and eventually Pittsburgh bound QB, Reggie Green, punched a ticket to its first ever state football final in school history with a 34-7 victory over Colonia in CTown.
Green scored on Cranford’s first possession in that game with a 60 yard TD run, and had a 23 yard run to the Patriots one yard line to set up another Cougar score for a 28-0 lead before wrapping up the win with a 54 yard TD run. Cranford’s defense led by the likes of Chris Follinusz, Mike Klimek, and Nick Diaz shut down Colonia’s standout RB Greg Jones.
So Cranford is 2-0 all time against Colonia, and has won the two previous meetings at Colonia by a margin of 51-14. The Patriots are hoping this time will be different and with a QB such as Josh Oluremi, who has some of the same abilities as Green did for Cranford back in 2011 and 2012, they could come up with the win. Cranford also has a solid playmaker at QB in Shane VanDam.
Through the first four weeks of play, VanDam has completed 39 of 60 passes for 688 yards and 6 TDs while only throwing one interception. VanDam has also rushed 7 times for 78 yards and another score. Colin Murray leads the Cougars rushing attack with 67 carries for 513 yards, or an average of 7.7 yards per rush along with 10 TDs. Lucca Limeira is also a major contributor to Cranford’s ground game with 45 carries for 270 yards and 3 scores.
Will Gallagher is the Cougars leading receiver with 14 receptions for 267 yards, or an average of 19.1 yards per catch, and 3 TDs. Jake Carter is another pass threat with 8 catches for 145 yards and a score. Jack Conley is an additional target with 7 catches for 99 yards and a TD and Lukas Ruby is one more receiver to be concerned about with 6 catches for 89 yards and a TD. Carter, Conley, and Gallagher can also make big plays in the return game.
Liam Goodwin, a junior backup QB and a receiver, who has caught 3 passes for 56 yards, does the placekicking duties for Cranford and has made his only field goal attempt while connecting on 18 of 19 extra points. On defense, the Cougars are anchored by linebacker Shane Kanterman, who leads the team with 34 total tackles including 17 solo tackles, 5 for loss, and another team leading 2 sacks.
Gallagher can also make plays in the defensive backfield, where he leads Cranford with 4 interceptions including two returned for TDs. Ryan Lynskey, a junior defensive back, is 2nd on the team in total tackles with 24 including 9 solo tackles. Senior defensive back Stephen Kisly has contributed with 15 total tackles including 7 solos and one for loss along with 2 interceptions while Angelo Fiorenza, another DB, has 14 tackles including 5 solos, 2 for loss, and 2 sacks.
Not to be left out is offensive and defensive lineman, Matt Fries, who is one of New Jersey’s Top 75 players according to NJ.com, and has committed to play football at the University of Illinois. The 6’5”, 275 lb offensive tackle also excels in the classroom with a 3.6 GPA. On defense, Fries has collected 4 total tackles including 2 solos and a sack.
In last week’s win at Linden, Oluremi led the charge with 5 of 6 pass completions for 68 yards and a TD while rushing 18 times for 185 yards and two more scores. Jake Ciencin had the TD reception with a 42 yard catch. Ciencin now has 7 catches for 102 yards and 2 TDs on the season, and 34 catches for 592 yards and 7 TDs over his three year career.
Patrick Miller made all three of his extra point attempts while the Colonia defense registered a safety in the contest. The Patriots broke a scoreless first quarter tie with 14 second quarter points to take a 14-7 halftime lead, and then scored 9 in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Over the first five games of the season, Colonia has averaged 27 points per game while giving up only a little more than 12 per contest.
To date, Colonia’s big quarter of the season has been the 2nd period, where the Patriots have scored 55 of its 135 total points this season. Oluremi has completed 41 of 60 passes for 540 yards and 3 TDs while rushing 64 times for 652 yards and 10 TDs. Josh Prophete is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry with 4 TDs this season while Jaeden Jones has rushed 18 times for 103 yards and a TD while catching 13 passes for 105 yards.
In addition to his placekicking duties, Miller, who played backup QB last season including the heartbreaking OT loss at Kennedy on November 13th (27-26), is another favorite target of Oluremi’s at wide receiver as he leads the team in receiving yardage. Prophete and Jermaine Ellis lead the defense as the top two on the team in total tackles.
Through its first four games, Cranford has averaged just over 39 points per game while giving up nearly 18 per contest. Over half of the 71 total points the Cougars have given up on defense came in a 43-37 come from behind OT win over North Hunterdon in their season opener on September 10th. Since then, Cranford has limited opponents to an average of just over 11 points in its last three contests.
Prediction: Cranford wins 21-20.