Cougars Looking to Avenge Loss to Barrons at Memorial Field Last Year
WOODBRIDGE, NJ—For the second straight year, Cranford and Woodbridge will be meeting up on the gridiron in a battle of two undefeated teams from Division 4 of the Big Central Conference. This year’s contest will take place at Nicholas Priscoe Field in Woodbridge on Friday night at 7:00 PM. Woodbridge enters the contest at 6-0 after enjoying a bye last week while Cranford is coming off a 27-14 win over Colonia last week.
The last time these two teams met at Memorial Field in Cranford on October 23, 2020, Woodbridge trailed twice at 7-0 and 14-7, but rallied back both times, and then pulled away on the shoulders of do it all running back Ali Lee to a 27-14 victory. This time, Cranford is looking to turn the tables. Both teams have played Colonia, J.F. Kennedy, and North Hunterdon and won.
However, Woodbridge has played better defense overall in all three of those match-ups by allowing a combined total of just 28 points while Cranford, which allowed 37 alone in its season opener versus North Hunterdon, has yielded 71 points against those same three opponents. The Cougars and Barrons both limited Colonia to 14 points while Cranford has scored more points with 27 versus Woodbridge’s 21.
The two teams head a division in BCC Division 4 that not only boasts the most teams of any division in the Big Central Conference, but it could be perhaps the most competitive top to bottom with exception to BCC Division 5B. Of the eight teams in BCC Division 4, six of them have at least three wins, and are .500 or better.
Cranford and Woodbridge are tied at the top of the division at 4-0 while Scotch Plains-Fanwood and North Hunterdon are tied for 3rd at 3-2. Colonia and Linden are next in line at 2-2. All six of these teams are in the hunt for a playoff spot, and three of these teams have been, or are currently ranked in the Big Central Gridiron Top 10 while the other three have received strong consideration.
Entering Friday night’s divisional showdown, Woodbridge has yielded an average of 11.7 points per game while scoring 23.5 points per contest. Meanwhile, Cranford has scored an average of 36.8 points per game while giving up 17 per contest. The Cougars gave up almost half of their 85 total points on the season to North Hunterdon in a dramatic, come from behind, 43-37 overtime win on opening night.
Woodbridge gave up 28 points to Sayreville in Week 2, but also scored 42 in that contest. Both teams have defeated a number of top programs en route to this very important clash. The Barrons defeated Winslow Township (26-14) of Camden County in the Battle at the Beach, and since that game, the Eagles from South Jersey have been on a roll with five straight wins, and are currently ranked 4th in the South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15, and 20th in the USA Today New Jersey Football Top 25.
In addition, the Barrons have defeated crosstown rival Colonia (21-14) in Week 1, and the Patriots are presently ranked 6th in the BCG Middlesex County Top 10, Sayreville, ranked 5th in the same BCG poll, and North Hunterdon, ranked 2nd in the BCG Hunterdon-Warren County Top 10. Meanwhile, Cranford has also beaten the likes of Colonia and North Hunterdon as well as Summit, which is ranked 3rd in the BCG Union County Top 10, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which was ranked No. 9 in the Big Central Gridiron Pre-Season Top 10, and is presently ranked 6th in Union County.
Led by senior QB and BCG’s Week 0 Player of the Week, Matt Stanton, the Barrons have tallied 910 yards through the air, and 1073 on the ground for 1,983 yards of total offense. Woodbridge has ran the ball 69.1 percent of the time versus passing 38.9 percent of the time. The Barrons average about 8.0 yards per play. The Barrons rushing game is led by senior RB, Mike Calvert, who has rushed 71 times for 408 yards and 2 TDs.
Leading the team in receiving is Isaiah Allen, who not only has 23 receptions for 407 yards and 6 TDs, but also 33 carries for 214 yards and 3 TDs for an average of 11.1 yards per touch. Sophomore A.J. Bosch leads the team in receptions with 27 for 356 yards and 6 TDs. Bosch also has 12 total tackles, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble on defense. Allen has 22 tackles including 9 solos and 2 interceptions.
Junior Laz Lisojo leads the team on defense with 33 total tackles including 9 solos and 3 sacks. Amir Wallace leads the team in sacks with five while tallying 17 total tackles including 4 solo tackles, and 6 tackles for loss. Allen is also a threat on special teams with two kickoff returns for 95 yards including a long of 70 yards, and two punt returns for 20 yards.
Stanton, who has rushed 70 times for 365 yards and 6 TDs and completed 61 of 82 passes for 910 yards and 12 TDs. He has accounted for 64 percent of Woodbridge’s total offense and 18 of the team’s 25 TDs. Stanton, Calvert, and Allen each have a two point conversion while freshman placekicker, Isaiah Tolliver has connected on 12 of 15 extra point attempts.
On the other side of the field for Cranford, senior QB Shane VanDam leads an offense that has compiled 840 yards through the air, and 1,153 yards on the ground for a total of 1,993 yards of offense, which is slightly more than Woodbridge’s total yardage in fewer games. VanDam has completed 51 of 79 passes for 834 yards and 8 TDs while only throwing two interceptions including one last week versus Colonia.
In addition, VanDam has rushed 11 times for 100 yards, and one more touchdown. Colin Murray is the top running back for Cranford and among the two teams with 93 carries for 672 yards, or an average of 7.2 yards per carry along with 12 TDs. Lucca Limeira is also a significant contributor with 335 yards on 54 carries, or about 6.2 yards per carry along with 3 TDs.
Behind an offensive line led by Illinois bound, Matt Fries, Murray and Limeira have combined for 1,007 yards on 147 carries, or about 6.9 yards per carry along with 15 TDs. The duo get a lot of these yards on tough runs set up by the offensive line, but can also fight off numerous tackles like they did last week versus Colonia. They account for 87 percent of Cranford’s rushing attack, and 94 percent of the Cougars rushing TDs.
Another potent offensive weapon for Cranford is wide receiver Will Gallagher, who was one of the heroes in last week’s win over Colonia with a huge fourth quarter TD catch that gave the Cougars the lead for good. So far this season, Gallagher has 20 receptions for 350 yards, or 17.5 yards per catch along with 4 TDs. Gallagher had 6 catches for 83 yards and a TD versus Colonia.
Other targets in the Cranford passing game include Jack Conley, who also hauled in a TD catch in the win over Colonia and has 10 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs. Jake Carter, who had a huge first half interception in the win over the Patriots, has 9 receptions for 154 yards and a TD while Lukas Ruby has 7 catches for 97 yards and a TD.
Shane Kanterman, who was injured at the end of the game against Colonia last week, leads the team in total tackles with 43 including 19 solo tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. Angelo Fiorenza, who has 20 tackles including 7 solos, and 3 tackles for loss, leads Cranford’s defense with 4 sacks. Ryan Lynskey has 27 tackles including 10 solos.
Gallagher leads the team in interceptions with 4 while Stephen Kisly, who has 18 total tackles including 10 solos and one for loss, ranks 2nd on the team in interceptions with two. Conley, Gallagher, and Carter lead the Cougars return game with Conley leading the team in kickoff return yardage as well as the team’s longest kickoff return while Carter has the team’s longest punt return of the season.
Gallagher and Conley have two point conversions to their credit while Liam Godwin made his only field goal attempt along with 21 of 22 extra point attempts. The game will be won in the trenches with the likes of Woodbridge’s Ayman Elhossiani, who prides in his pancake blocks,leading the Barron offensive line. During Barrons head coach Joe LaSala’s tenure, Woodbridge has always made controlling the line of scrimmage a major part of its success.
With Fries and Geoffrey Gretta leading the charge, Cranford also has the ability to set the tone in the trenches. Whoever wins this classic tug of war will be able to dictate tempo, and the outcome of the contest. Also, there are very intriguing match-ups at the skilled positions including QB, RB, and WR. Both teams don’t shy away from running up the middle, and are both very successful at doing it. Each team has two very solid targets at wide receiver.
Prior to last season, the two teams had only played each other four times including two times during the 1916 season. The Cougars have a 3-2 edge in the series. Cranford won the first three match-ups between the two schools including the two clashes in 1916 and 1947. Woodbridge has won in 1948 and last year.
In those five contests, Cranford has outscored Woodbridge by an overall margin of 80-61, or by an average of 16-10 per game. The Cougars won the first three meetings by a combined score of 54-9 while the Barrons have won the last two by a margin of 52-26. Over the past three seasons including this year, Woodbridge has won 21 of 23 games while Cranford has gone 39-13 since 2015 including a 12-0 season and a sectional championship in 2015.