By Warren Rappleyea
Although it came up a point short, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s football team walked out of the dreaded “Swamp” at Middletown High School South disappointed but at the same time knowing it can go can more than hold its own against many of the best teams in New Jersey.
The Bulldogs (2-1) have won three straight NJSIAA sectional titles. In 2013 and 2014, they won the Central Jersey, Group II championship. Last year, Rumson-Fair Haven moved up to Central Jersey, Group III, where it won again. Middletown South won the North Jersey, Section II, Group IV crown a year ago.
“It’s a tough loss to a very strong team,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Jerry Schulte said. “Our guys played hard right to the end. They never gave up. I’m proud of how they played. Now we have to put it behind us and move on.”
Middletown South certainly deserved its 14-13 win on a slippery, rainy evening. The Eagles made the key plays when needed: a tipped extra point and a huge defensive stand with the Bulldogs driving late in the fourth quarter.
Rumson-Fair Haven quarterback Michael O’Connor valiantly led the final drive, which was stopped at the Middletown South 34-yard line, where the Eagles took the ball back on downs.
O’Connor scored on a 5-yard run at the beginning of the final quarter to put his team in position to tie the score. The PAT, however, was tipped, enabling the home team to retain the slimmest of leads.
Rumson-Fair Haven opened the scoring thanks to a 12-yard scoring run by Matt Vecchiarelli. The Bulldogs recovered a Middletown South fumble and cashed in quickly, taking advantage of a short field for a 7-0 lead.
Middletown South tied things up late in the opening half. The Eagles stopped O’Connor short of first down on a fourth-and-1 play to take possession at their own 35-yard line. Eleven plays later, the Anthony Summey’s short run got the home team on the board.
The Eagles went ahead midway through the third quarter on a 62-yard pass from Aneesh Agrawal to Jeremy Joyce. After kicking off, Middletown South was able to force Rumson-Fair Haven to punt. The Eagles, however, turned the ball over on a fumble that led to O’Connor’s touchdown.
Rumson-Fair Haven returns to action Oct. 14 at Matawan Regional High School (1-3).
Ocean Township High School upped its record to 2-3 with a 27-0 victory over Matawan. Anthony Tedesco piled up nearly 170 yards and scored on runs of 36, 10 and 86 yards to lead the Spartans.
Jasher Pena’s 10-yard touchdown run turned out to be the only score in the first half, as the wet conditions hampered both teams. Knowing the weather would limit Ocean Township’s passing game, the visiting Huskies shut down the run.
Things were different after the break, however. Tedesco scored his first touchdown halfway through the third quarter to give his team a 14-0 edge. He scored again late in the quarter to make it 21-0, as the Spartans began to wear the visitors down. Tedesco’s third touchdown came late in the game when he broke free for 86 yards to close out the scoring.
Ocean Township had the unenviable task of going up against Wall High School, Middletown South and Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School in successive weeks. Although the Spartans played reasonably well, they lost all three games. Ocean Township is off until Oct. 15, when it will look to even its record at Manasquan High School (3-1).
Shore Regional High School traveled to Edison for a Shore Conference-Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) crossover game and came away with a 14-7 decision over Bishop George Ahr High School.
A pair of big plays made the difference for the Blue Devils. Matt Pennell scored on a 70-yard run and then added a 45-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winner.
The win is the third straight for the Blue Devils (3-1) following a 14-7 defeat at the hands of Asbury Park High School (3-1) in the season opener. Shore Regional is set to visit undefeated Mater Dei Prep (4-0) Oct. 8. The Seraphs are coming off a 37-15 success against Highland Park High School in a Shore Conference-GMC crossover contest.
Red Bank Catholic
In another crossover game, RBC easily downed winless Colonia High School, 35-0.
Zach Bair put RBC on top with a 2-yard run in the first quarter. Halfway through the quarter, Nick Brusca added another touchdown. Brusca scored again in the second quarter, and Tahj Berandesco returned an interception for a touchdown to make it 28-0 at intermission. Brusca added another touchdown in the third quarter.
Caseys coach Frank Edgerly stressed the importance of not looking past Colonia prior to the game. Clearly his team, which has now won three straight, heeded his advice. RBC will visit undefeated Wall High School (4-0) Oct. 7. The Crimson Knights downed Long Branch High School in their last outing, 27-7, Sept. 30.
RBC is playing without quarterbacks Steve Lubischer and Tom Lang. The coach said both players are out indefinitely. Lubischer injured his arm on opening day and has a broken clavicle. Brusca, a running back, has moved behind center, although Edgerly said he is putting together packages for other players to step behind center depending on the situation.