Despite falling behind early, 7-3, top-seed Cranford rode solid play all the way around to its third state sectional championship of the playoff era.
The undefeated Cougars improved to 11-0 with a 45-21 win over third seed Sparta (8-4), in a game that – in the end – wasn’t event that close.
Scroll down for postgame reaction.
Cranford dominated on both sides of the field in Friday night’s Big Central Game of the week, driven by Autoland, and heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio.
There was the offensive line, which allowed a handful of negative plays against one of the state’s most disruptive defensive ends, but was able to pave the way for a career high 304 yards (unofficially) for senior Colin Murray, who dominated himself. He also had two touchdowns.
And there was the defense, which helped Cranford to a plus-7 in the turnover category, fueled by five picks of Sparta quarterback Austen Frattura – four of which came in the decisive second half. Frattura had come into the game with 16 TD passes and just two interceptions, but left with two scores and five INTs on the night.
Three of those interceptions were by Will Gallagher, the Cranford baseball team’s shortstop, who’s also a wide receiver, and actually finished with as many interceptions and more yards on defense than he had catches on offense.
Murray and Gallagher were named co-Autoland Players of the Game, and will receive a custom football at the end of the year.
Cranford now moves on to play West Morris in the North Group 3 regional championship, to be played either next weekend, or the weekend of December 4 and 5, at either Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands or Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium. Sites, dates and times will be announced Sunday by the NJSIAA.
The Cougars will face West Morris (9-3), the top seed out of North 1, Group 3, which won that sectional title Friday night with a 21-0 win over second-seed West Essex.
Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko down on the field with postgame reaction from Cranford’s state title win: