Playing in December and making a run at winning a state championship has been drilled into the DNA of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School football players every season over the last decade.
The Bulldogs have reached 10 state sectional championship games since 2007 and have won six of those games since 2010.
Led by veteran coach Jerry Schulte, the Bulldogs are once again gearing up for another championship run. In 2021 the Bulldogs will strive to win a seventh state sectional title and play for a Group III regional championship.
“Our goal is to get to states and play in December,” Schulte said this week. “We are getting better every day.”
In 2020, Rumson-Fair Haven went 6-2. In 2021, the Bulldogs will lean on new faces on offense as All-Conference running back John Volker, wide receiver Patrick Jamin and quarterback Josh Harmon have graduated.
Stepping in at running back will be senior Geoffrey Schroeder, who saw significant playing time in 2020 and scored three touchdowns.
“I just have to keep working hard and trusting my offensive line,” Schroeder said. “It’s not as much as replacing (Volker), but more of being a leader. It’s about getting the rest of the team in tune. We lost a lot of seniors. We have to get these new guys accustomed to the program.”
Senior Colin Kennedy will be at center and is a player Schulte said the Bulldogs will count on this season. There will be a veteran presence across the offensive line.
Seniors Christian Smith, Charles Pearson, George Clough and Patrick Malpass all return to the trenches after helping Volker rush for 1,173 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2020.
Having four starters back on the offensive line will be a key for Kennedy and Schroeder, Schulte said.
“Everything on offense starts with the offensive line. If you don’t have an offensive line, you are not going to get anything done,” he said.
The Bulldogs saw half of their 2020 defense, led by All-Conference defensive back Ryan Ruane, depart on Graduation Day. However, defensive coordinator Jeremy Schulte has a nice core of starters back in the fold for 2021.
Senior linebackers Ryan McKay and John Lista are returning to lead the defense. Senior Aiden Moriarty returns to anchor the defensive line.
“It can be great as long as we clean up the mistakes and play like I have seen us play in practice,” McKay said of the defense. “I am surrounded by talent. It has been nice to watch everyone progress and to be a part of this unit.”
This fall, Rumson-Fair Haven will compete in the Shore Conference American Division against Wall High School of Wall Township, Toms River North, Donovan Catholic of Toms River and Colts Neck.
The Bulldogs will open the season against the Wall Crimson Knights in the “Rumble on the Raritan,” a three-day New Jersey high school football showcase that will be played at SHI Stadium on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Sept. 5.
In 2019, the Crimson Knights defeated the Bulldogs to win the state sectional crown. In 2020, Wall was 7-0.
As they have done for the past few years, the Bulldogs prepared for the season and the opening game against Wall by scrimmaging New Jersey parochial power Saint Peter’s Preparatory School of Jersey City on Aug. 19 in Rumson.
Schulte said scrimmaging a good team like Saint Peter’s will help his squad get better as it prepares for a new season.
Now in his 48th season coaching football, Schulte said each year has been fun. He said he is looking forward to being around his players this season and to seeing them play on the Rutgers University field to start the 2021 campaign.
Playing at Rutgers “is exciting for the kids and the coaches. All of the fans are excited about it. It will be a good night. We need every win we can get,” he said.