With Shore Conference teams 0-3 on the day from Rutgers University for Championship Saturday, you knew that Rumson Fair-Haven would restore some order in the night’s final game – hunting for their fourth straight title against South Plainfield.
In the lowest scoring affair of the four, the Bulldogs did just that, relying on their talented defense and timely running game to secure a 27-22 win.
The Bulldogs would actually have to dig themselves out of a 14-0 hole, as Tigers QB Ryan Marston capitalized on his team blocking a punt and recovering at the RFH ten.
It took all four attempts, but Marston went in with a keeper on fourth down to put South Plainfield ahead 7-0.
It would then be the Tigers passing attack (which was virtually non-existent in the second half) that put them ahead by two scores, as Marston hit Jean Sapini twice for gains of 14 and 24.
RB Zac Delvecchio scored from eight yards out, lowering his shoulder to double the Tigers lead.
In need of a long drive, the Bulldogs went 80 yards in just one play to answer the blow they had taken with an even stronger punch. It was Senior RB Matt Vecchiarelli, who finished with 195 yards in his final game, breaking free for the long score on their first play of the drive.
The Tigers would hand Rumson a chance to tie before the half on a muffed punt, but a fourth down stop sent them into the locker room leading 14-7.
Well within striking distance, the veteran Bulldogs defense knew what was needed from them in the second half – and they delivered emphatically.
Holding South Plainfield to 95 second half yards and 2 first downs, and forcing them to become one dimensional, Mike O’Connor and the RFH offense went on three long scoring drives to deliver another championship ring.
Peter Lucas set the Bulldogs up at the start of the third quarter with a kickoff return near midfield, and Vecchiarerelli capped it off 11 plays later with the tying score.
Rumson would have possession of the ball with a two score lead with under 5 minutes to play, but things got interesting quickly with a final push from South Plainfield.
Another blocked punt set them up for a quick score at the 10, with a gadget play leading to Ryan Stankan lateralling the ball to Deshai Smith after a reception.
Smith scored to fire up the Tiger fans, and those fans erupted when a botched extra point snap (already backed up due to a false start) resulted in a two point conversion.
Once thought to be buried by the Bulldogs defense, the Tigers had life. Rumson’s group of seniors would have to earn every second of their final championship, and they wouldn’t want it any other way.
While O’Connor was stopped on a fourth down to stall the RFH drive that began at the 34 following an onside kick, he came up with the game ending interception three plays later.
The Tigers final desperation drive went nothing but backwards, and the Bulldogs rejoiced with the well-earned win.
Four straight sectional championships is truly a remarkable feat that this class of seniors for RFH will always remember, and this was a signature win for the boys in purple.
Mike Ruane and Mike O’Connor talked to the media after the game:
Previous stories from 12/3 at Rutgers: