Four Hilltoppers named to All-State Group 3 Team

On Sunday, the Star-ledger announced it’s post season football wards. The 2014 Hilltopper football team was well represented again this year. Earning a first team selection on offense was RB Chris Zanelli while DB Andrew Helmer earned a first team defensive selection. Stevie Rainero earned a second team offensive selection at the center position while Michael Maldonado added a third team selection at DE. Congratulations to these boys and the rest of the team on another outstanding year.

10 Hilltoppers named to All Conference Team

The 2014 Summit Hilltoppers are well represented on this years Mid-State 38 Raritan Division All-Conference Team. The team is voted on by the head coaches of the participating schools. Summit’s players that were honored are as follows:

1st Team Offense:

RB Chris Zanelli

WR Andrew Helmer

OL Stevie Rainero

OL Matteo diMayorca

1st Team Defense

DB Peter McKinlay

LB Spencer Sink

DL Colin Andrews

DL Michael Maldonado

2nd Team Offense

OL Matt Greenstein

2nd Team Defense

DL Pat Maloney


Summit H.S. Football Season Ends with 14-0 Loss to Parsippany Hills

Greg Elliott Saturday, November 22, 2014 • 5:30pm

SHS FB - Defense v. Par Hills

A stellar defensive effort was not enough to push Summit past Parsippany Hills.

SHS FB - Zanelli v. Par Hills

Summit’s Chris Zanelli fights for yardage.  Zenelli injured his ankle in the third quarter and was lost for the remainder of the game.

SHS FB - Mulholland v. Par Hills

Summit’s Drew Mulholland makes a leaping catch in traffic during the fourth quarter.

SHS FB - Helmer v. Par Hills

Andrew Helmer opened at quarterback for Summit.

SUMMIT, NJ – During a season in which they faced significant adversity — including a slew of injuries and off-field distractions — the Summit High School Varsity Football team persevered, finding ways to win football games and advance to within one game of the state final.

The dream, however, of capturing an unprecedented third-consecutive championship was extinguished at Investors Bank Field, as a heroic defensive effort in the NJSIAA semifinal was not enough to sustain the Hilltoppers, and they fell 14-0 to Parsippany Hills.
The game also saw Summit lose its all-time, single-season leading rusher, as Chris Zanelli suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter that forced him from the game.  The Hilltoppers were already thin in their offensive backfield as quarterback Peter McKinlay, knocked out of their quarterfinal win against Morris Hills, was available just in a limited role,
Andrew Helmer opened at quarterback, and the Hilltoppers adjusted their offensive tempo — normally of the quick, no-huddle variety — to reflect the personnel changes.  Summit was unable to get their offense moving, and spent most of the first quarter penned deep in their own end.
The combination of a stubborn defense and the solid punting of Jake Froschauer allowed the Hilltoppers to weather the field position storm, and the first quarter ended scoreless.  Given their inability to move the ball effectively, however, it appeared likely the Vikings would strike first, and they did.
With just over four minutes remaining in the second quarter, talented running back Angelo Gallego broke wide right, found the sideline, and raced 34 yards to the end zone to give Parsippany Hills the lead which, after the PAT, stood at 7-0.
Summit made some adjustments at the half, and began to have some success moving the ball.  Zanelli’s injury appeared to make many of those wrinkles moot, as losing their all-time, single-season rushing record holder looked to be a mountain too tall to climb.  But as they are called in name, the team is a tough group of Hilltoppers, and they set about clawing their way back up the steep incline.
The defense kept stoning the Vikings, and eventually — past the midway point of the fourth quarter — Summit began to move the ball down the field.  A series of McKinlay passes — including a leaping catch by Drew Mulholland in traffic — mixed with grinding runs, put the ball inside the Parsippany Hills 30.  The drive halted, and a fourth-and-11 pass to Sean Andrews fell incomplete, ending the Hiltoppers best — and what turned out to be last — chance to score.
Parsippany Hills took the ball and moved it into Summit territory, but found themselves facing a fourth-and-six with just over two minutes remaining.  Opting against a long field goal attempt or punt, quarterback Nick Verducci dropped back and threw down the right sideline.  Summit’s Will Huck clearly appeared to get his hands on the pass first, the Vikings receiver grabbing on after that, with both falling to the turf clutching the pigskin.  Inexplicably, the referee ruled the play a catch, giving the Vikings the ball inside the Summit 10-yard line.  A verbal melee ensued, with the subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct penalties putting the ball inside the five.
Gallego scored his second touchdown two plays later, the 14-point margin of victory not indicative of the razor-thin difference between the teams on the afternoon.
After the game, Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos saluted his team’s grit, passion, and resilience.  “We never quit, the players gave us everything they had all year, down to the last minute.  The amount of adversity they faced this season was astronomical.”  He also heaped praise on the Hilltoppers defensive unit, saying, “Our defense has been great all season, and today they kept us in the game.  Offensively, we did the best with what we had, but injuries limited what we could do, and things just did not go our way today.”

Gutsy Performance, Second-Half Comeback, Lift Summit H.S. Football Over Morris Hills, 29-17, in NJSIAA Playoffs

SHS FB - Zanelli v. Morris Hills

Spencer Sink leads the way as Chris Zanelli, who set a new Summit Varsity Football single-season rushing mark, carries the ball in the Hilltoppers 29-17 win over Morris Hills.

SHS Football Defense v. Morris Hills

The Summit defense dislodges the ball from Morris Hills running back Isaiah Turner in the Hilltoppers 29-17 victory.

Greg Elliott Saturday, November 15, 2014 • 5:54pm

SUMMIT, NJ – Left without a healthy quarterback on the roster, the Summit High School Varsity Football Team dug deep, relied on its senior leadership, and rallied from a halftime deficit to beat Morris Hills, 29-17, in the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs.

The Hilltoppers played a jagged first half, one that put them behind after two quarters, 11-8.  They also lost their only healthy quarterback still on the active roster, captain Peter McKinlay, who left the game with an injury late in the second quarter.  Quarterbacks Ryan Richson and Jake Froschauer are also both currently out with injuries.
On a clear, cold day at Investors Bank Field, Summit got off to a strong start in their quest for a third consecutive state title.  The Hilltoppers won the coin toss and deferred, giving Morris Hills the ball and, despite allowing chunks of yards on the ground during the Scarlet Knights’ opening drive, eventually took the ball away.
First defensive end Pat Maloney blew up a running play, setting up a third and long.  Then, Senior captain Andrew Helmer intercepted a pass at the Summit goal line, and returned the ball 30 yards.
Summit’s offense began their march down the field, culminating in McKinlay finding Drew Mulholland alone deep down the right sideline for a 24-yard touchdown.  Chris Zanelli’s two-point conversion made it 8-0.
Morris Hills got back on offense, their running game again posing problems for the Summit defense.  Running back Isaiah Turner was doing a large share of the damage, mainly through sweeps left and right.  The Hilltopper defense eventually held, and Damian Gonzalez’s 22-yard field cut the lead to 8-3.
In the second quarter, things went flat for Summit.  Unable to move the ball, a short punt gave the Scarlet Knights advantageous field position, the short field led to a one-yard touchdown by Turner and, with the two-point conversion successful, Morris Hills took the lead, 11-8.
After losing McKinlay, the Hilltoppers went to the locker room at halftime to think about myriad issues: how to stop the Scarlet Knights running attack, how to get their offense untracked, and how to win a game without a healthy quarterback.
At the break, according to Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos, his senior leadership rallied the team.  Spirits lifted, the Hilltoppers turned to the type of offense that has given them so much success, and to the player who has shouldered a big part of the load in that offense, namely the running game and Zanelli.
Catching the second-half kickoff on his 10 yard-line, Matt Murdock ran right, handing the ball to Zanelli who was running left.  The kick off reverse was executed beautifully by Zanelli and the Summit special teams unit, as he brought the ball back past midfield.
A Zanelli run to the left, followed by a Zanelli run to the right took the ball inside the Morris Hills five-yard line.  Two plays later, Zanelli scored from the three, and Paulo Umana tacked on the PAT to put Summit back ahead. 15-11.
Morris Hills, however, punched right back on the subsequent possession.  In a drive that was solely executed on the ground, quarterback Daymon Fleming scored on a four-yard bootleg run to the right side.  The PAT was wide left, and the Scarlet Knights were again in front. 17-15.
The defending champs used the next drive to show their toughness, talent, and versatility to take back the lead, scoring the go-ahead touchdown that proved to be the game winner.   After moving to the Morris Hills 30 on series of runs, Andrew Helmer threw a flanker-pass to Vincent Bonomo, who was wide open at the goal line on the gadget play.  Umana’s point after made it 22-17 with a quarter to go.
The Hilltoppers iced the game in the fourth quarter, on a drive when Spencer Sink reeled off several impressive, powerful runs, it was Zanelli blasting over from one-yard out.  Zanelli’s rushing totals on the day helped him set a new Summit single-season record for yards rushing, braking the previous record of 1,394 set by Torrie Fogg during the 1994 season.
The 29-17 scoreline was perhaps not indicative of the level of the struggle, with Summit having to overcome both a tough Morris Hills team, and the adversity of losing their quarterback.  Kostibos was justifiably proud of fortitude displayed by his team.
“We found a way,” he said.  “The seniors spoke at the half, and our kids took ownership of the challenge.”  On winning without a healthy offensive field-general, Kostibos said, “We danced with who brought us here.  Chris Zanelli is one of the best who has ever played in a Summit uniform.”
Summit’s second-round opponent is Parsippany Hills, a 35-34 winner over Orange.  The kickoff time for the November 22 match-up at Investors Bank Field, a rematch of last year’s championship game, is yet to be announced.

Summit H.S. Football Eases Past Hillside 35-20; State Playoffs Begin Nov. 15

SHS Football - Frey v. Hillside

Summit linebacker Spencer Frey slams into Hillside’s Frazion Rock during the second half of the Hilltoppers victory.

SHS Football - Maloney v. Hillside

Hilltoppers Defensive end Pat Maloney closes in on Hillside quarterback Frazion Rock.

SHS Football - McKinlay v. Hillside

Quarterback Peter McKinlay carries the ball in Summit’s 35-20 win over Hillside.  The Hilltopppers open the State Playoffs November 15 at home versus Morris Hills.

Greg Elliott Saturday, November 8, 2014 • 7:41pm

SUMMIT, NJ – Heading into their game at Hillside, the final regular contest before they embark on a quest for their third straight State Championship, the 7-1 Summit High School Boys Varsity Football Team — especially Head Coach Kevin Kostibos — had two goals in mind.

“Win the game and keep everyone healthy.” said Kostibos.
The Hilltoppers checked both boxes, as they built a significant first half cushion and eased to a 35-20 victory over the Comets.
Summit opened the scoring in the first quarter on a two-yard touchdown from Chris Zanelli.  Paulo Umana’s extra-point made it 7-0.
The score was doubled two minutes later when quarterback Peter McKinlay took the snap, rolled right, and found Andrew Helmer deep down the right side.  Catching the ball at the 20, Helmer raced to the end zone to complete the 78-yard scoring play.
In the second quarter, Hillside countered with a scoring drive that was built on the legs and arm of quarterback Fazion Rock, who first scrambled for 20 yards to the Summit 25 and, from there, then hit Roger Bryant in the back of the end zone.  The PAT was blocked, and the Hilltopper lead was 14-6.
A vintage Summit up-tempo drive extended their lead to 21-6 at the 7:30 mark.  McKinlay did the honors from the two-yard line, after a mix of quick passes and runs that blitzed the Comets defense.
Later in the quarter, Summit’s defense held Hillside deep in their own end, forced the Comets to punt and, while they didn’t block the kick, the pressure caused the Hillside punter to scramble, barely avoiding getting tackled before awkwardly putting a boot on the ball.  The muffed kick went less than 10 yards, and the Hilltoppers quickly pounced on the opportunity.
McKinlay found Helmer over the middle, and he shed several tacklers and raced to the end zone. Umana again added the extra point, and it was 28-6 at the half.
An early second half touchdown meant Summit reached the designated 35-point target, and signified the result was well-decided.  After the score, the game was handed over to both the offensive and defensive second units. “We wanted to get to 35 (points), and then turn it over to the younger kids and get them used to the game speed at this level.”

Despite allowing two meaningless scores, the players entering the game in the second half performed well, notably Matt Murdock, who made a leaping interception on defense, and delivered several impressive runs.
After improving to 8-1 on the season, Summit begins playoff action November 15 against Morris Hills, who operate a Wing-T offense that Kostibos termed “Old school, but effective.”  Kick off for the game at Investors Bank Field is set for 1 p.m.

Summit H.S. Football Grinds Out 30-20 Win Over Rahway, Improves to 7-1 on Season

MAC and Z - SHS v. Rahway Football

Running back Chris Zanelli leads Peter McKinlay around the right end in Summit’s 30-20 win over Rahway.

SHS 2014 Seniors

Summit’s senior class poses with Head Coach Kevin Kostibos after their final regular-season home game.

Greg Elliott

Saturday, November 1, 2014 • 6:34pm

SUMMIT, NJ – It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t clean.

On a cold, raw, and blustery day at Investor’s Bank Field, Rahway — Summit’s opponent — did not look like a 1-5 team.  For their part, the Hilltoppers bore just faint resemblance to a squad that came into the game with an impressive 6-1 mark.
Misfiring in multiple areas throughout the afternoon, Summit did what good teams do when they are not paying their best, namely, find a way to win.  While never trailing on the day, the game was in doubt until just three minutes remained, when Peter McKinlay intercepted a pass and rambled 15 yards to the end zone, sealing the Summit High School Varsity Football Team’s 30-20 win over the Indians,
Summit broke on top at the 6:39 mark of the first quarter when, operating deep in their own territory, Rahway quarterback Zahir Wilder had the ball snapped over his head, and pigskin kept rolling into the end zone.  All Wilder could do is fall on the ball to prevent a Hilltoppers’ touchdown, and the safety gave Summit a 2-0 lead.
After receiving the ensuing punt, Summit immediately struck to increase their lead.  Chris Zanelli bolted to the end zone from 20 yards out, and Paulo Umana’s PAT made it 9-0.
The rout was on, correct?  Guess again.
Rahway drove down the field, and Wilder improvised on s scrambling, twisting, 26-yard scoring run to narrow the lead to 9-7 on the first play of the second quarter.  The play showed the danger of Rahway who, like the Roselle team Summit had difficulty putting away a few weeks earlier, have some very talented athletes at skill positions.
Summit made it 16-7 when Zanelli went over from the one-yard line.  The drive highlighted by a nice pass play from McKinlay to Drew Mulholland, and some power runs by McKinlay.
The team’s traded interceptions, and it looked like the Hilltoppers would carry their double-digit lead into the half, but the Indians pulled off a big play with just over two minutes left in the quarter.  Running back Jordan Scott broke through the right side and flashed 53 yards to put the ball deep into Hilltopper territory.  Wilder finished the drive with a 10-yard run, and the margin was razor-thin at 16-14.
The third quarter was a grind for both teams, with neither offense threatening the end zone.  Summit finally patched together a drive, and Zanelli scored his third touchdown of the day, punching it over from inside the one-yard line on fourth-and-goal.  After the PAT from Umana, the Hilltoppers led 23-14.
Rahway refused to go away and, on a third-and-10 from the Summit 29-yard line, Scott again wiggled free, going the distance to the end zone.  Hilltopper Captain Stevie Rainero bulldozed through the middle to block the PAT, and Summit’s lead was just three points at 23-20.
Summit held the ball for the majority of the final quarter, but was forced to punt, and Rahway got the ball back with just over three minutes to go, inside their own 15.  After Summit stuffed their first-down run attempt, Wilder was pressured in the pocket, scrambled left and lofted a short pass in the left flat, where McKinlay intercepted and ran un-touched to the end zone.
“You are never happy when you don’t play well,” said Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos.  “But I would rather win ugly than lose pretty.”  Noting the team’s lackluster performance against an under-rated opponent, Kostibos said, “You have to come ready to play every game.  We have to keep getting better, but games like this build character and, ultimately, we found a way to win.”
The 7-1 Hilltoppers conclude their regular season with a November 8 trip to Hillside.  Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.

Froschauer’s Four TD Passes Key Summit Victory Over Vorhees, 44-20

Greg Elliott

Saturday, October 25, 2014 • 12:20am

SUMMIT, NJ – Earlier in the season, Summit High School Varsity Football Head Coach Kevin Kostibos remarked that his offense was still seeking its identity.  After its performance the past two weeks, the Hilltoppers may have found that identity, mixing both a strong interior and outside running game, with an emerging passing attack, all which combine to cause nightmares for opposing defenses.

Over the course of its last two games, against Somerville and, most recently, Vorhees, the Hilltopper offense has put up 65 points in the combined first halves alone, effectively sealing the respective outcomes early, and making the second halves feel like organized scrimmages.
Versus the Vikings, Summit rolled to a 30-7 halftime lead on the strength of four Jake Froschauer touchdown passes, two to wide-out Andrew Helmer, and eased to a 44-20 win, improving to 6-1 on the season.
“We are becoming a triple-threat offense,” said Kostibos.  “Tonight Vorhees packed the box trying to stop Chris Zanelli and our run game, and Jake had a big game.  Jake is evolving, maturing, and is getting used to the speed of the game.  Our ‘O Line” did a great job giving him time, and the receivers made the catches.”
Summit scored halfway through the first quarter, gaining possession after an interception by Peter McKinlay.  On a third and long from the Vorhees 35 yard line, sophomore quarterback Froschauer dropped a perfect rainbow into the hands of Helmer down the right sideline.  The two-point coversition was ruled no good, despite Zanelli looking like he broke the plane of the goal line on his second-effort run.
The Hilltoppers turned another Vorhees turnover into three more points when, after Stevie Rainero fell on fumble, Summit built their lead to 9-0 when Paulo Umana kicked a 39-yard field goal, the ball just nicking the left upright — and making a sweet pinging sound — before sailing through.
Vorhees cut the lead to 9-7 when quarterback Charlie Rodenberger scrambled and found Noah Cerrone, who rode the right sideline 70 yards to the end zone.
Summit answered less than two minutes into the second quarter when Froschauer found Drew Mulholland for 45 yards and a touchdown.  Umana’s PAT made it 16-7.  The lead was increased less than three minutes later when, after a three-and-out stop by the Hilltopper defense, Summit got a short field to work with and took quick advantage.
Froschauer threw 15 yards to McKinlay for the score, to top off an impressive drive, and it was 23-7.  Less than two minutes later, it was Froschauer to Helmer, Part Deux, this time a 65-yard pass and run thing of beauty and, as the half came to a close, the sense the final outcome had all but been decided as well.
If, indeed, there was any mystery left in the contest, it was extinguished less than 15 seconds into the second half.  Receiving the kick-off to begin the final 24 minutes, Zanelli started up the middle, cut left, and broke containment, scampering 95 yards to the end zone.  At 37-7, after Umana’s PAT, it was game over, but Summit was not done scoring.
The Hilltoppers went up 44-7 when McKinlay threw a five yard touchdown pass to Vincent Bonomo.  Already playing much of his second unit, Kostibos substituted liberally the rest of the way, and Summit allowed two touchdowns, which only made the scoreline less lopsided than the game actually was in reality.  In a freakish trio of circumstances, Summit allowed all three touchdowns on the final plays of the first-, third-, and fourth-quaters of the game.
Next up for Summit is home encounter with Rahway on November 1.  Kick-off at Investors Bank Field is set for 1 p.m.

Back in Black: Summit Football Cruises Past Somerville, 42-9, Before Big Crowd at Friday Night Lights

Greg Elliott TAP into Summit

Saturday, October 18, 2014 • 12:24am

SUMMIT, NJ – Who says Good Guys cant wear black?

Wearing black uniforms designed and produced especially for the game, the Summit High School Varsity Football Team used a mix of raw emotion, a big first-half dose of their power running game, and a stifling defensive effort to overwhelm Somerville, 42-9, at the traditional Friday Night Lights game.

Playing on an Investors Bank Field illuminated via temporary light stanchions, Summit took care of business early, building a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and a 35-0 advantage at halftime.
Already feeding off the energy of the event itself, which drew an overflow crowd, the team’s amp factor went beyond its zenith at the conclusion of warm-ups.  As they returned to the locker room for their final preparation, the Hilltoppers were greeted by special, black jerseys hanging in each of their lockers.  Matching black pants rounded out the menacing ensemble, which was the brainchild of Head Coach Kevin Kostibos, and acquired through fundraising efforts by the players’ parents.
Changing into their uniforms like Superman, the team left the locker room and proceeded to play like super men.

Summit received the opening kick-off and scored less than three minutes into the game.  Peter McKinlay took the direct snap and ran right for 13 yards and the touchdown, carrying several Pioneer defenders with him the last three yards.  Paulo Umana’s extra point was good, and it was 7-0.  McKinlay earlier had gotten the Hilltoppers in scoring position, finding Andrew Helmer for 37 yards down the middle.
Minutes later, it was 14-0.  Helmer made a tremendous effort to turn and intercept a long Somerville pass down the right sideline, giving Summit possession at the Pioneer 46-yard line.  On the next play, Chris Zanelli — who rushed for 174 yards in a half-night’s work — broke through the left side of the line and raced to the end zone.  Umana again tacked on the extra point.
The quarter wasn’t half over, but it felt like the game was, when Zanelli ran 18 yards for his second touchdown.  On the drive, Summit went for it on fourth-and-17 from near midfield, and Zanelli caught a pass just behind the Somerville linebackers and gained 30 yards.
The second quarter was more of the same, Zanelli scoring his third touchdown on a 41-yard scamper, and quarterback Jake Froschauer teaming up with Helmer on a touchdown pass of the same length.  The five touchdown advantage meant two things: a running clock to start the second half, and liberal substitutions from Kostibos.
Mike Flanagan made it 42-0 Hilltoppers, when he scored on a 22-yard run, with Matt Murdock adding the extra point.  Two of the pluses of the big lead, from a Summit perspective, were the ability to rest some players a bit nicked up, and also to give virtually every player on the roster a chance to perform under the bright lights.
Summit did surrender a safety — a high snap sailed over punter Froschauer’s head — and a touchdown on the next to last play of the game but, all things considered, the “black ops project” hatched by Kostibos could not have gone any better.
“This event is Summit,” Kostibos said after the game.  “Everybody partakes in the event, different ages, kids, parents, players who have played here.”  He added, “The players look forward to Friday Night Lights all year, and I am glad as a football coach to be part of it.”
Of the all black, commemorative uniforms, he said, “We have been doing the special shirts for the fans for years, and I wanted to do something special for the players, which would unify us all.”
Summit next gets a stern road test, traveling to Vorhees October 24 for another Friday night game.  Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m.

Summit (41) at Roselle (33) – Football

By The Star Ledger on October 11, 2014 10:19 p.m.

Chris Zanelli rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries as Summit defeated Roselle, 41-33, in Roselle.

Zanelli had first quarter touchdowns of 2 and 15 yards before adding a 1-yard TD in the third quarter. Peter McKinlay put Summit in front for good with a 2-yard touchdown to make it 21-14. It was the first of three touchdowns for McKinlay, who had 15 carries for 80 yards.

Roselle’s Gerald Henderson III completed 9-of-17 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and he also rushed for a TD. Rashaad Pendleton had four catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns, who also completed 10-of-12 passes for 68 yards. Raymund Clark caught eight passes for 104 yards and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and Darren Cannady had 14 carries for 92 yards.

Two Undefeated Teams Set To Battle As It’s Summit-Cranford Thursday Night

Summit’s outstanding football team is led by its quad captains, from left, Steve Rainero, Peter McKinlay, Colin Andrews, Chris Zanelli and Andrew Helmer. The Hilltoppers visit Cranford on Thursday night in a much-anticipated showdown between undefeated Mid-State 38 programs.

By JR Parachini
Covering high school football since 1982
and Union County since 1991

According to both head coaches, Thursday night’s Mid-State 38 Conference gridiron clash featuring undefeated Raritan Division rivals Summit – the defending champion – and Cranford is just another game.

Forget that both teams are undefeated in the division and 3-0 overall.

Forget that both have combined to win the last three North 2, Group 3 championships – Cranford in 2011 and Summit in 2012 and 2013.

Forget that Summit has not lost a game in three years and has not suffered a defeat in a regular season game in six.

Forget that Cranford has still not beaten Summit since the first season of the Mid-State in 2009.

Cranford has scored 128 points so far and is averaging 42.6, off to the best offensive start in program history.

Summit has allowed just one touchdown and only 10 points total for an average of 3.33 points against.

“This is going to be a huge challenge for our defense, a true measuring stick,” Summit second-year head coach Kevin Kostibos said. ” Cranford has a very explosive offense and can score, pretty much, at anytime.”

Summit is 6-0 vs. Cranford since the Mid-State began in 2009, including 5-0 in the regular season and 1-0 in the North 2, Group 3 playoffs.

“I’ve said this many times and I truly believe it, this is not a rivalry until we win,” said Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier, in his 10th season at the helm of the Cougars. “We’re just another team on the list of who they have beaten.”

Rosenmeier has guided Cranford to its first state championship game and first playoff title and has also led the Cougars to the playoffs three years in a row for the first time in program history.

However, he has not coached Cranford to a win over Summit – yet.

Summit is 59-2 in its last 61 games, the best record over that span of any public school team in the state.

“They’re the best school our size in the state,” Rosenmeier said.

Cranford is 27-8 since the beginning of the 2011 season – 0-4 vs. Summit and 27-4 against its other opponents.

“Coach (John) Liberato and Coach (Kevin) Kostibos really put something together there,” Rosenmeier said. “We want them on our schedule every year. This is why you’re in this.”

Summit has won a state-leading 27 straight games.

The Hilltoppers have also won 48 consecutive regular season matchups.

Cranford is out to end both streaks this week.

This week’s game is Thursday night at 7 at Cranford’s Memorial Field. With excellent weather in the forecast, expect a big crowd, one that may approach 3,500 people.

Both are off to strong 3-0 starts, with defending champion Summit leading the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Raritan Division at 3-0. Cranford is tied for second in the division with Voorhees at 2-0.

The Cougars have wanted to beat Summit and end its regular season

success for some time now and came very close the last time the teams played at Memorial Field two years ago.

The squads also clashed in last year’s North 2, Group 3 semifinals, with Summit also coming out on top in that affair.

Cranford is coming off a 35-27 come-from-behind win at Roselle in a battle of 2-0 squads, Roselle the leader of the conference’s Mountain Division.

SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS so far (3-0, 3-0):
Summit 26, North Plainfield 0 – at Summit
Summit 31, Gov. Livingston 7 – at GL
Summit 22, Warren Hills 3 – at Summit

CRANFORD COUGARS so far (3-0, 2-0):
Cranford 45, Warren Hills 6 – at Cranford
Cranford 48, Somerville 12 – at Somerville
Cranford 35, Roselle 27 – at Roselle (non-division game)

Summit last loss a regular season game on Nov. 7, 2008, falling at West Essex 37-12 in North Caldwell. That was its final game as a member of the Hills Division of the Iron Hills Conference. Summit played in the IHC for 13 seasons from 1996-2008.

Cranford is seeking its first 4-0 start since the 2011 team – which went on to capture North 2, Group 3 and a playoff title for the first time – began 7-0 before it fell at home to Summit 52-21. That was Cranford’s only loss three years ago in a program-best 10-1 campaign.




2009:   Summit 49, Cranford 7 – at Cranford

2010: Summit 17, Cranford 13 – at Summit

2011: Summit 52, Cranford 21 – at Cranford

2012: Summit 30 Cranford 27 – at Cranford

2013: Summit 48, Cranford 14 – at Summit

2013 N2, G3 semifinal: Summit 35, Cranford 14 – at Summit

Here are some other numbers to ponder regarding Summit’s recent success:

Summit has a winning streak of 33 against Union County opponents, including three playoff victories. The Hilltoppers have won 30 straight regular season games against Union County competition. The last time Summit lost to a Union County school in a regular season game was on Thanksgiving 13 years ago. On Nov. 22, 2001, Summit was defeated at New Providence 21-14.

“Our focus has to be on Cranford being good enough,” Rosenmeier said. “We surely don’t want to keep losing to them ( Summit).”

” Cranford has become a top-tier program, with top players over the years such as Reggie Green,” Kostibos said. “Our league is getting better and better and they’re a big part of that.”

Both teams also met in the North 2, Group 3 playoffs last year, with Cranford much more competitive than in the regular season game.

The teams might see each other again in this year’s North 2, Group 3 playoffs.

“I don’t think either of us will hold anything back,” Rosenmeier said. “For the winning streak that they have it means that they’ve been focused every week.

“We’ve both had success in our schemes. I don’t think we’ll be able to trick one another.

“It’s going to come down to who executes better. Sometimes it’s 5-6 plays that may determine the outcome. We have to find a way to successfully make those plays.”

Replacing injured junior Ryan Richson at quarterback for the Hilltoppers has been Jake Froschauer. The 6-2, 155-pound sophomore has done well so far, according to Kostibos.

“He’s leading our offense and getting help from our senior leaders,” Kostibos said. “They’re helping to bring him along.

Froschauer completed 11-of-19 passes for 154 yards in Summit’s 22-3 home win over Warren Hills Saturday. He completed a three-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Sean Andrews in the third quarter and was also intercepted twice.

Froschauer was one of three Summit quarterbacks in its opener, while he has started the last two games.

“He’s gotten better and better each week,” Kostibos said. “The biggest thing for him is gaining experience.”

Tough to bring down was senior running back Chris Zanelli, who carried 27 times for 143 yards, including two touchdown runs of two yards in the second quarter.

Senior middle linebacker Spencer Link paced the Hilltoppers in tackles vs. Warren Hills with 11. Senior end Michael Maldonado produced a team-leading three tackles for losses.

“Our defense has played well,” Kostibos said. “It’s going to have to again this week if we’re going to have any kind of chance.”

Cranford has scored 17 touchdowns so far in three games, led by first-year quarterback, junior Jack Schetelich.

“We know we’re going to get their best,” Kostibos said. “We look forward to the competition.

“The towns play each other in Pop Warner and the two towns are rivals in almost all sports. For a Thursday night game this is a big event.

“I think it’s going to be an electric atmosphere.”

Schetelich ran for 182 yards and four touchdowns to lead Cranford to a big win over Mountain Division leader Roselle. The host Rams led 27-15 at the half, led by senior running back Darryn Canady, who rushed for over 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“We knew going in how difficult a game it was going to be,” Rosenmeier said. “We were down 14-0. Roselle was just better than us in the first half.”

Cranford scored all 20 of the points put on the scoreboard in the second half.

Schetelich threw for 95 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Joe Norton.

“It was a well-played game that came right down to the end, with Roselle having the ball on the three-yard line,” Rosenmeier said. “We had the best of the second half. I’m proud of the way our kids fought and came back.

“We thought the game would come down to the very end like it did. We just didn’t think we would get behind the way we did.”

Cranford ’s 2011 team began with 21, 20 and 35 points in its first three games.

“The kids have worked really hard on their offensive skills, starting in the summer,” Rosenmeier said.

Cranford did not commit a turnover in its first two games and then overcame two vs. Roselle.

“Our defense has played very well and keeps giving the ball back to our offense,” Rosenmeier said.

While this may just be another regular season game for both squads – with a big winning streak on the line against a team that has yet to beat the other – there is plenty of juice about what could be the game of the year in Union County up to this point. Add to the fact that both coaching staffs did not have the kindest words for each other walking off Tatlock Field after last year’s playoff encounter, which was the last time the teams faced each other.

“The mantra here, and it’s echoed by baseball coach (Dennis) McCaffery, is that all games are big,” Rosenmeier said. “We tell the kids, ‘as you win, every game gets bigger.’”

The winner Thursday night will have the upper hand as far as the Raritan Division is concerned and will also get an edge in the playoff seeding scenario in North 2, Group 3.

For Summit, the Hilltoppers want to keep their streaks going and they want to continue their mastery of Cranford.

For Cranford, the Cougars are seeking to go 4-0 for the second time in four seasons. It just happens that it would probably be the best 4-0 start in program history because it would have included a first win over Summit in Mid-State play, ending a five-year futility vs. the Hilltoppers, in addition to all of their present winning streaks.