The Rumson-Fair Haven High School football team needed a victory on Oct. 4 at Manalapan High School.
The Bulldogs were in danger of slipping below .500 after going 29-7 over the past three years.
So their best and most experienced player, senior quarterback Collin Coles, stepped up and led them to a huge 23-20 victory over Manalapan.
Coles, the only returning offensive starter from Rumson-Fair Haven’s 2018 NJSIAA Bowl Championship team, threw three touchdowns and lifted the Bulldogs over the Braves in overtime.
His third and final touchdown of the night, to Luke Devlin in overtime, ended the game in walk-off fashion. The senior threw two touchdowns to Devlin on the night and another to Peter Crowley.
With the victory, the Bulldogs improved to 3-2 and moved up to first-place in the Shore Conference’s American Division standings. Rumson-Fair Haven has not yet found consistency in 2019, with no winning streaks on its resume.
But Coles has been the constant, with 632 passing yards, eight touchdowns and only two interceptions in five games. He has gotten especially hot in recent games. The Manalapan contest was his third consecutive game with multiple passing touchdowns.
Rumson-Fair Haven coach Jerry Schulte prefers the Bulldogs to be a run-first offense, but he is open to adaptation, and Coles is his best option right now.
“We tweak it based on what guys can do,” Schulte said.
Coles has a host of receiving options, too. Juniors Patrick Jamin, John Volker and Devlin have all caught multiple touchdowns this year. Jamin actually led the Bulldogs in receiving on Oct. 4, with five catches for 92 yards, despite not catching one of the touchdowns.
If the Bulldogs can get their running game going consistently, they will be tough to beat for the rest of the fall. They ran well in their first two victories this year.
In a Sept. 20 home game against Long Branch High School, Rumson-Fair Haven won, 49-20, behind 125 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Volker posted 14 carries for 86 yards and two scores.
In a Sept. 6 road game versus Red Bank Catholic High School, Rumson-Fair Haven won, 20-14, behind 173 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Volker racked up 166 yards and a score.
The Bulldogs can run the ball. They just have to get more consistent with it. When Coles and the running game are on in the same game, like they were against Long Branch, the Bulldogs are an offensive force.
“I believe in my team,” Volker said.
And with good reason. The Bulldogs are 3-2, they have beaten powerful programs like RBC and Manalapan and they haven’t even put it all together yet. It takes time when you are breaking in a new offensive line and new skill position players, which the Bulldogs are.
But a close victory against a quality team like Manalapan, in which a team leader like Coles stepped up, should give Rumson-Fair Haven a lot of confidence moving forward. It will need it on Oct. 11 at home against a motivated Mater Dei Prep team.
The 4-1 Seraphs lost for the first time in 2019 on Oct. 5, 14-7 to Wall High School. Both Shore Conference powers will need next week’s game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“Hopefully we can get a huge win going forward,” said Rumson-Fair Haven junior safety Ryan Ruane.