Rumson-Fair Haven clinches American Division title with win over Colts Neck

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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School linebacker John Lista sacks Colts Neck quarterback John Runfolo during a game played on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-6 to improve to 5-0 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School running back Daniel Garvey catches the ball out of the backfield and fights forward for a first down during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-6.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School kick returner Ryan Kalman returns the kickoff to the Bulldogs' 36-yard line during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School wide receiver Luke Jamin recovers a fumble during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven is 5-0 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School defensive back Owen Sullivan celebrates making a tackle on third down during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-6. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School linebacker John Lista sacks Colts Neck quarterback John Runfolo during a game played on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-6 to improve to 5-0 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School running back Daniel Garvey catches the ball out of the backfield and fights forward for a first down during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-6.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School kick returner Ryan Kalman returns the kickoff to the Bulldogs' 36-yard line during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School wide receiver Luke Jamin recovers a fumble during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven is 5-0 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School defensive back Owen Sullivan celebrates making a tackle on third down during a game against Colts Neck on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck. Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-6. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School football team improved to 5-0 and won the 2021 Shore Conference American Division championship with a hard-fought 21-6 victory over Colts Neck High School on Oct. 9 in Colts Neck.

Senior linebacker John Lista led another strong defensive effort with three sacks, while senior running back Geoffrey Schroeder notched his second three-touchdown performance behind a solid performance by the Bulldogs’ offensive line.

Coach Jerry Schulte has not been surprised by the team’s success this season. In his sixth year at the helm and 17th overall with the program, Schulte has watched the Bulldogs win six state sectional titles and a 2018 NJSIAA Bowl Championship.

That standard of excellence is something Schulte believes every player who comes through the program wants to continue and the Bulldogs’ play this season has shown that belief to be the case.

“Rumson-Fair Haven is the best place to be,” Schulte said. “I don’t want to coach anywhere else. We have great players graduate and then we have others come up who can play, too. It’s an ideal situation for us.”

The Bulldogs and the Cougars played tough defense through a scoreless first quarter.

The Bulldogs scored on their first possession of the second quarter. A six-play, 45-yard drive was capped when Schroeder bowled into the end zone from seven yards out. Senior Justin Worobel kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 7:06 to play in the second quarter.

Lista helped the Bulldogs force a three-and-out on Colts Neck’s next possession with his second sack of the contest.

A second straight touchdown drive was on the menu for the Bulldogs. Facing fourth and goal from the 3, Schulte left the offense on the field and trusted Schroeder and the offensive line to get the job done.

On the play, Schroeder followed his blockers and scored, and Worobel’s second extra point made it 14-0 with 2:43 to play in the second quarter.

“That really made a statement that we were going to lean on our offensive line the rest of the game,” Schroeder said of the Bulldogs’ second touchdown. “I’ll take my offensive line over anyone. They are great.”

Colts Neck got on the board with 1:13 left in the third quarter when sophomore running back Chris Scully ran off tackle for a three-yard score. The extra point attempt was no good and the Bulldogs’ lead was 14-6 entering the fourth quarter.

The Cougars’ defense stopped the Bulldogs on their next three possessions, but the Bulldogs’ defense stayed tough and did not let Colts Neck close the gap. Rumson-Fair Haven’s opponents have scored only 19 points in five games.

Lista summoned the spirit of Vince Lombardi when the Bulldogs’ senior said, “We strive for perfection on the way to catch excellence” (the legendary football coach said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”).

“We always want to do better. We come out every week working hard to try to have a successful outcome in each game,” he said.

Lista recorded his third sack when the outcome of the game was still in doubt. Colts Neck had the ball at its 28 with 2:25 to play in the fourth quarter.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Lista delivered a sack on second down to make it third and 17, and on the Cougars’ next play, Luke Mikloajczyk intercepted a pass.

“(Defensive Coordinator) Coach Jeremy Schulte called a great play to free me up to blitz off the edge on the backside to make a play on the quarterback,” Lista said of his sack on second down. “I’m really happy with my play. I’m one of the leaders of this team. I want to lift everyone up in times of toughness.”

The Bulldogs took possession after the interception and on third down Schroeder ran behind pulling guard Patrick Malpass for a 43-yard touchdown that put an exclamation point on the victory. Worobel booted his third extra point for the 21-6 final.

“We just kept leaning on our power play,” said Schroeder, who has rushed for eight touchdowns in 2021. “That was our best play over the course of the game. I followed Pat Malpass. He threw a great block and I just ran off it and the rest is history.”

Rumson-Fair Haven will host Red Bank Catholic High School on Oct. 15. A victory over the Caseys will lead the Bulldogs into the top Shore Conference postseason pod with a perfect record.

“It’s great to win the division,” Jerry Schulte said. “The next step is to see what we can do in the championship pod.”