The hot streak the South Plainfield football team enjoyed through the last games of the regular season came to an abrupt end in the opening round of the NJSIAA playoffs Friday night, courtesy of the legs and arm of Cranford quarterback Reggie Green.
Green rushed for a pair of first-half touchdowns and threw for another score as second-seeded Cranford defeated seventh-seeded South Plainfield 37-12 in the North 2 Group II quarterfinal playoff game.
South Plainfield (4-5), which had its three-game winning streak halted, had trouble contending with the elusive Green all game. The University of Pittsburgh-bound senior (219 rushing yards on 26 carries) ran an efficient offense, guiding the Cougars to scores on their first three drives to start the game to open with a 21-0 lead.
“Reggie Green is a great back and Cranford is a great team, but it’s still disappointing,” South Plainfield first-year coach Gary Cassio said. “I’m proud of these kids but our goal was still to advance in the playoffs.”
With the emphasis on the ground attack, Green and teammate Jimmy Dwyer combined to amass 325 rushing yards against the overmatched South Plainfield defensive unit. The duo converted three fourth down tries in the first half, including a 15-yard run by Green on fourth-and-1 that was followed by a Tigers personal foul penalty to fuel a Cougars drive. The play put Cranford inside the Tigers 13 and led to a 14-yard passing touchdown by Green to Bobby Bruns to put Cranford (7-2) ahead 21-0 with 5:50 left in the opening half.
Only a Liam McDermott sack of Green with 1:16 left could stall Green’s progress, force the Cougars to punt, leading to the Tigers lone first half score.
After totaling just 19 yards of offense in the opening half, the Tigers were more productive in the second half as Kyle Moroney completed 5-of-8 passes for 147 yards with a touchdown and an interception but the Tigers never could take advantage of second-half chances.
The Tigers had two opportunities to score in the second half and crawl back into the game but were thwarted both times. Tory Russell recovered an onsides kick to open the third quarter and the Tigers drove to the Cougars 5. But on fourth and goal, Joe Pellegrino was stopped three yards short of the end zone on a running attempt. On the Tigers ensuing series, Moroney led the Tigers to the Cranford 24 but a pass into the end zone was intercepted by Donovan Walker late in the third quarter to foil another scoring chance.
“We had our opportunities and made some poor decisions,” Cassio said. “We let a lot of opportunities slip away.”