By Warren Rappleyea
Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School’s football team scored a solid character victory over Ocean Township High School Sept. 23, and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and Shore Regional High School both shut out their opponents on Sept. 24.
The Caseys jumped out to a 14-0 lead but lost quarterback Tom Lang shortly thereafter. Lang suffered a broken clavicle and was replaced by Nick Brusca, who calmly stepped in to lead the RBC offense the rest of the way. Lang had taken the reins after sophomore signal-caller Steve Lubischer injured his arm on opening day.
“We got the job done on offense. But defensively, our guys did an excellent job,” RBC coach Frank Edgerly said. “[Ocean Township has] an excellent quarterback, and he can throw. We really didn’t have any coverage breakdowns and for the most part, their receivers were covered.”
Lang opened the scoring with a 16-yard run on the Caseys’ first possession and connected with Brandon Lombana on a 26-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. Lang had completed 9 of 12 passes for 129 yards before leaving the game. Zach Bair, whose 38-yard run closed out the scoring in the third quarter, had a big day running for 175 yards on 16 carries.
The RBC defense limited the Spartan to just 93 yards on the ground and intercepted a pass. Ocean Township quarterback Kenny Pickett completed eight of 16 passes for 67 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Joey Aldarelli that made it 14-7 at halftime.
After the break, Edgerly’s team stuck to the running game, piling up nearly 160 yards on the ground in the second half. Brusca ended the evening with 73 yards in 14 attempts.
Edgerly had prepared for the possibility of using a third quarterback this season by creating a package of plays for Brusca to run if called upon.
The victory was RBC’s second in a row following its opening-game loss to Middletown High School South (3-0). The Caseys are scheduled to host Colonia High School (1-2) in a Shore Conference-Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) crossover game. The Patriots are coming off a 41-6 loss at the hands of undefeated Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen.
With the loss, Ocean Township falls to 1-3, with its only victory coming against Monmouth Regional High School Sept. 2. Coach Don Klein’s team has had a tough early-season schedule, with its other two losses coming against Middletown South and Wall High School (3-0). The Spartans will try to get back on track at home Sept. 30 against Matawan Regional High School (1-2). The Huskies (1-2) edged Monmouth Regional, 23-21, Sept. 24.
In Rumson, the Bulldogs prepared for their trip to Middletown South Sept. 30 with a comfortable 49-0 victory over winless Holmdel High School (0-3). Coach Jerry Schulte’s team has piled up 90 points in its two shutouts. Rumson-Fair Haven also shut out Raritan High School (0-3).
Michael O’Connor, a Colgate University-commit, threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tyler Pierson and connected with Trevor Caruso for a third to lead the way for Rumson-Fair Haven. Peter Lucas, Alex Maljan and Matt Veccharelli all ran for touchdowns in the win, as the Bulldogs dominated from start to finish.
Schulte noted that defensive tackles James Reu and Liam Adams have been playing particularly well.
“They don’t get the recognition they deserve because they’re in the middle of everything,” the coach said. “When you see it on film, you realize just how good they are.”
Things will be a bit different next in Middletown, as the Eagles have already defeated RBC, Ocean Township and Manasquan High School.
“Middletown South is an excellent football team with great athletes all over the field,” Schulte said. “But we have a good team, too. Many of our guys have played big games on big stages against top teams, so they know what it’s like. It will come down to executing on the field and doing what we do best.”
Rumson-Fair Haven has won three successive NJSIAA sectional titles. The Bulldogs won in Central Jersey, Group III last fall after winning Central Jersey, Group II in 2014 and 2013.
At Keansburg High School (0-3), visiting Shore Regional upped its record to 2-1 with a 42-0 success over their hosts.
Mark Russo ran for two touchdowns in the first half and returned an interception for six more points in the third quarter. Blue Devils quarterback Matt Pennell also scored twice in the win, as his team rolled up a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never really looked back.
Shore Regional has won two straight since losing a 14-7 nail-biter to Asbury Park High School in its opener. The Blue Devils will line up at home against GMC foe Bishop George Ahr High School Sept. 30. The Trojans outscored South River High School (1-2), 40-20, Sept. 30 to raise their record to 2-1.