Bulldogs pound Oakcrest, 28-6, to reach SJ Group II championship game


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It would not be a state sectional playoff year without the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School football team playing for a sectional title.

The No. 2 seed Bulldogs clinched their 11th appearance in a state sectional championship game since 2010 on the evening of Nov. 4 in Rumson with a 28-6 victory over No. 3 seed Oakcrest High School of Atlantic County during the semifinals of the 2022 NJSIAA South Jersey Group II playoffs.

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Rumson-Fair Haven (6-4) will attempt to win its seventh state sectional title in 12 years when the Bulldogs face No. 1 seed Raritan High School of Hazlet in the South Jersey Group II championship game on Nov. 11

“It feels awesome,” first-year coach Jeremy Schulte said after his team’s victory over Oakcrest. “It shows what these guys can do. Not many people were giving us a chance after the first two games of the season. We told these guys to get through the regular season and put us in a good position for the playoffs and that’s what they did.”

In the win over Oakcrest, the Bulldogs leaned on their offensive line: Spencer Branin (left tackle), Julien Devlin (left guard), Jack Mauthe (center), Caden Winters (right guard) and Zach Factor (right tackle) to rush for 221 yards and four touchdowns.

Senior running back Brayden Dill rushed for 73 yards and one touchdown and junior tailback Alastair Orr rushed for 107 yards and a career high three touchdowns.

“The boys up front did a great job,” Orr said. “We were hearing all week about how good Oakcrest’s defensive line was and people were counting out our offensive line. We just smelled blood and went after it. The offensive line balled out (tonight).”

A nine-play, 46-yard drive to end the second quarter gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs drove to the Oakcrest 20 with 2:39 to play and faced a decision on fourth and two.

Schulte sent out the field goal unit, but changed his mind after offensive coordinator John Corneliusen told him he believed the offense could gain two yards.

The move paid off as Dill rushed for two yards and a first down. A face mask penalty on the Falcons added five yards and put the ball at the 13.

“I loved it,” Dill said of the decision to run a play on fourth down. “I knew if they gave me the ball that I had to get the first down. I loved the confidence they had in me.”

Orr scored four plays later as he burst through the defense on a three-yard run with :39 to play in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs had the momentum going into halftime and continued to feed off that momentum when the third quarter began.

The defense forced a punt after the Falcons ran three plays to begin the third quarter and a poor punt gave the Bulldogs the ball on the Oakcrest 35.

Seven plays later, Orr plowed in from the 1 as the Bulldogs took a 13-0 lead with 6:59 to play in the third quarter.

Once again, the Bulldogs only allowed Oakcrest to run three plays on its next possession and another poor punt gave Rumson-Fair Haven the ball at the Falcons’ 25.

The Bulldogs capitalized after taking possession as Dill weaved his way through the defense for an eight-yard touchdown run with 2:54 to play in the third quarter.

“No one wrapped me up and I took that opportunity to get in the end zone,” Dill said. “Right from that point on, I knew this was our game.”

Sophomore quarterback Owen O’Toole passed to junior wideout Nick Rigby for a two-point conversion to extend the lead to 21-0.

The game moved into the fourth quarter and the Falcons scored on a five-yard run by Jaleel Williams to pull within 21-6 with 8:37 to play.

Oakcrest attempted an onside kick, but the Bulldogs recovered the ball at midfield and embarked on a seven-play drive that featured a 31-yard run by Orr to the 1 and then a one-yard touchdown run by Orr that gave the Bulldogs a 28-6 lead with 4:13 to play.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Orr said of rushing for three touchdowns in a state playoff game. “I’m just excited I was able to do my job and get the ball in the end zone.”

Orr has rushed for nine touchdowns during the 2022 season.

On the defensive side, the Bulldogs held Oakcrest to 100 yards of total offense. Devlin recorded a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered by senior defensive back Nick Costello.

Senior defensive back Ryan Kalman intercepted his sixth pass of the season in the fourth quarter.

“It was a very sentimental win, especially because of how dominant of a win it was,” Devlin said.

Now the Bulldogs will pursue another state sectional title when they face Raritan in the South Jersey Group II championship game in Hazlet.

With different coaches and different players over the years, the Bulldogs have found success during the past decade and have no plans of slowing down.

“It’s just a testament to the kids,” said Schulte. “They are a motivated group of kids every year. It doesn’t matter who it is. They are going to step up and do what they need to do to win. It’s a great place to be.”

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