The Cranford football team does not want to go backwards again.
Cranford revitalized its program in the last decade, bringing more positive results for the team before the 2008 season. Yet the Cougars finished with a 3-7 record last season - the first losing season for Erik Rosenmeier’s term as head coach.
It also was the first losing season in seven for the school.
Entering his fifth year with the Cougars, Rosenmeier looks to put aside 2008 and bring back the winning times. “It’s important to win and reestablish a winning program,” he said.
Even though Cranford had 18 seniors in 2008, said Rosenmeier, they were inexperienced. He added that most of the seniors on the 2008 team were backups to the two previous senior classes.
It might be easier said than done to get to a winning record this season as the school heads into the Mountain division of the Mid State 39 with the likes of Rahway, Johnson and Governor Livingston - teams that have seen state sectional championship games.
This new division also includes Hillside and Summit. The favorite in the division might be Summit, as the team welcomes nearly the entire starting group back this season.
Along with the new division and new conference, the Cougars will be celebrating the new synthetic turf at Memorial Field with the season opener against rival Scotch Plains-Fanwood this Saturday.
There are several returning starters for the Cougars including seven on the offensive side of the ball and four on the defensive side. The incumbent offensive starters are filled with skilled positions in junior quarterback Joseph Papandrea, along with a pair of junior running backs in Sean Trotter and Justin Van Ostenbridge. The lone receiver back is senior Will Green.
Returning junior J.T. Vicci plays on the defensive side of the ball as middle linebacker. Green and Van Ostenbridge also return as defensive backs. Junior Joe Brady comes back to lead the defensive line.
The Cougars again will be running their option with no tight ends and no halfback similar to the flexbone offense that is run by the likes of the United States Naval Academy and the United States Air Force Academy.
Rosenmeier and the Cougars have some experience blocking for that group of skilled players in returning starters: Brady at guard along with junior Bobby Anstatt and senior Julian Campo at the tackle spots. Also on the offensive line is senior Alex Bartley, junior Tim Handy and senior James Brady, Joe Brady's brother.
The head coach's ultimate goal this season is to move the chains. “We need to make sure that we move the ball down the field,” said Rosenmeier. “The key is to keep the other team off the field.”
They have a quality player who can engineer the offense in Papandrea, who ran for 480 yards and passed for another 320. As a sophomore, he ran for six touchdowns and passed for another three touchdowns as he started at quarterback from the third game in 2008.
“His biggest asset is that he has got courage under fire and doesn’t panic,” said Rosenmeier.
Along with Papandrea’s running skills, the Cougars have a nifty pair in the backfield in Van Ostenbridge and Trotter. Trotter ran for 525 yards on the ground along with seven touchdowns.
“He’s not very big, but is tough and makes people miss him,” said Rosenmeier about Trotter who is only 5-foot-8-inches and 140 pounds.
Rosenmeier is looking to get a full year from Van Ostenbridge who suffered a concussion against Newark Central in the sixth game of the season and missed the rest of the 2008.
Juniors Kasim Lewis and Anthony Petrowski, along with seniors Will Green and Mike VanLiew serve as wide receivers this season.
Along with Brady on the defensive line there is junior Adam Smith, Anstatt, sophomore T.J. Nicholas and junior Bryan Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons also plays wide receiver.
With a 3-3 defense, Rosenmeier likes to move his linebacker and defensive linemen around. The linebackers are sophomore J.P. Christiano, sophomore Anthony DaSilva, sophomore Michael Klimek and senior Bartley.
The defensive backfield has Lewis, Green and sophomore Jonathan Rubin at strong safety while Trotter, sophomore Adham McGuire, sophomore Chris Witwick and senior Kendall Grier will get time as cornerbacks.
Van Ostenbridge will punt while junior Robert Gaeta takes care of field goals and extra points.
Rosenmeier and the Cougars are looking to get back on the winning side with a victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood this Saturday, September 12 at 7 p.m.
Cranford 2009 football schedule
(Games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
Sept. 12 Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Sept. 17 at Hillside
Sept. 25 North Plainfield
Oct. 3 at Rahway, 2 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Johnson
Oct. 16 Summit
Oct. 23 at Delaware Valley
Oct. 30 Governor Livingston
Nov. 7 at Voorhees