Rumson rallies to defeat Manalapan, 14-10, in American Division showdown


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MANALAPAN β€” A back and forth battle in a Shore Conference American Division football game between Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and Manalapan High School was decided in the final minute on Sept. 23 in Manalapan.

Sophomore quarterback Owen O’Toole drove the Bulldogs 85 yards and junior running back Alastair Orr plunged into the end zone with :58 to play to seal a 14-10 victory over the Braves.

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β€œIt’s not easy to come out of a game like this with a win,” senior defensive back Ryan Kalman said. β€œIt shows grit and toughness. It was a tough game, but we knew we were going to win it.”

Trailing 10-7 with 3:43 to play, the Bulldogs took possession at their 15 after senior defensive lineman Marshall Halfacre stripped the ball from Manalapan running back Jason Rodriquez and Cooper Bunnell recovered the fumble.

Rumson coach Jeremy Schulte told his offense it was time to score and O’Toole took the field and directed a 10-play scoring drive.

On a fourth and five, O’Toole completed a 16-yard pass to Scott Venancio as the Bulldogs reached their own 46.

Several plays later, O’Toole completed a 38-yard pass to wide receiver Nick Rigby to put the ball on the Manalapan 1. Orr scored two plays later to give Rumson the lead.

β€œIt (the hole) just parted like the Red Sea. The offensive line did a beautiful job blocking it and it felt great to go in untouched,” Orr said.

Coming off a five-touchdown performance the previous week during a 44-20 victory over Wall High School, O’Toole said leading a game-winning drive against Manalpan topped that effort and he was all smiles after leading the Bulldogs to their second victory of the season.

“We responded at the end when we had to,” O’Toole said.

On their final possession, the Braves reached the Rumson 32 with :18 to play. A holding penalty put the ball on the 47 with :12 to play.

Senior defensive lineman Julien Devlin clinched the victory when he ran a stunt and sacked Manalapan quarterback Matthew Grzejka at midfield.

“Cooper (Bullen) really helped me out” to get the sack, Devlin said. “He dragged the center and the guard in and I was able to loop around to get the sack. It was really nice to end a game like that with a win.”

The Bulldogs sacked Grzejka five times, recovered two fumbles and Kalman came up with an interception.

After starting the season 0-2, the Bulldogs have evened their record at 2-2.

In a game that saw Rumson commit eight false start penalties and three offside penalties, Schulte said his team never panicked. The coach believes the Bulldogs are on a path to success this season.

β€œThat’s a win that can help dictate a season. To see (the players) not give up the entire game when things were not going our way was tremendous. I’m very proud of them,” he said.

Rumson will host Southern Regional High School of Manahawkin on Sept. 30

Manalapan (2-3) has lost three straight games after starting the season 0-2.

On Senior Night in Manalapan, senior placekicker Michael Calton gave the Braves a 3-0 lead by converting a 35-yard field goal attempt with 2:23 to play in the first quarter.

Late in the second quarter, Rumson took a 7-3 lead when Venancio scored on a seven-yard run with 2:32 left in the half.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the Braves regained the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

On third and 22 at the Rumson 27, Grzejka found junior wide receiver Anthony Macchio on the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown pass that gave Manalapan a 10-7 lead.

The touchdown capped a 14-play, 86-yard drive that saw Grzejka throw for 61 yards.

In a defensive battle, Manalapan came up with interceptions by junior Aneesh Kurria and seniors Darius Colleton and Alex Dille.

Manalapan will visit Freehold High School in Freehold Borough on Oct. 1.

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