Football – Lucas, Rumson Back to Business in Win Over Monmouth
RUMSON - Coming off of consecutive weeks that were both out of the ordinary, the Rumson-Fair Haven football team got back on its game thanks to a performance that was extraordinary.
Senior Peter Lucas racked up career-highs with 299 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries to help spark the Bulldogs - ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - to a 48-25 win over No. 10 Monmouth Regional Friday night at Borden Stadium.
With Friday's win, Rumson moves into second place in the Shore Conference Class A Central division and first among public school teams, overtaking the Falcons - who entered play without a loss in the division.
"We prepare for every game the same, no matter what the circumstances are," Lucas said. "I think these last two weeks show what kind of mental toughness we have as a team. With everything that went on the week before last game, missing practices and the emotions in the school, we stuck together and did what we had to do."
Two weeks ago, Rumson played a high-profile game against No. 2 St. John Vianney at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University - a classic game that ended with the Lancers holding on to deny the Bulldogs, 31-28, in overtime.
A week later, Rumson returned to the field with heavy hearts following the death of a student on the previous Sunday. The Bulldogs beat Red Bank, 42-7, in the Battle of Ridge Road.
"The last couple weeks were tough," said senior defensive end Elijah McAllister, who finished with a sack and three tackles for a loss. "Losing to Vianney and then the emotional week last week was tough, just with what was going on at the school and trying to practice. But this week felt more like it was back to business, which was great."
While Friday's game did mark a return to business of sorts for the Shore's No. 3 team, it was still a big game for both teams. Monmouth entered with just one loss and in the midst of a turnaround season for the program, while Rumson sought to gain the inside track in its pursuit of the A Central public division championship.
The first five minutes of the game showed both that Rumson came in ready to play and that Monmouth is a different team than it has been in recent years. Junior defensive tackle Joe Afflitto stripped the ball away from Monmouth quarterback-slash-running-back Ian Fitzgerald without it hitting the turf on the Falcons' third play from scrimmage.
On Rumson's first play, Lucas broke loose for a 19-yard touchdown run to kick off his big night.
"We knew they (Monmouth) were 6-1 and could play a little bit," Lucas said. "They are better than previous years. We knew there were a lot of power points on the line and we powered through and got a good win."
Despite the inauspicious start, Fitzgerald and Monmouth responded in grand fashion. The senior and first-year starter took the direct snap on 2nd-and-1 from his team's own 21 yard-line, broke contain and sprinted 79-yards for the game-tying touchdown run.
While Fitzgerald's big play got Monmouth back in the game, it marked the last time Monmouth would be tied with Rumson. Outside of the 79-yard run, Fitzgerald managed negative four yards rushing on 13 carries against the Bulldogs' swarming difference, leaving him with 75 yards on 14 carries for the game.
"A 6-1 football team is a 6-1 football team," McAllister said. "They came out and played very well and so did we. We knew we were going to get a game and they gave it to us. I thought we responded well after getting the turnover and taking the lead, then giving up the big run on the second series. We corrected what we needed to and responded."
With Fitzgerald bottled up for the remainder of the first half, Rumson's offense went back to work to take control. The Bulldogs drove 60 yards in 10 plays to take a 14-7 lead following Fitzgerald's touchdown, capped by a one-yard score by Lucas.
Junior Alex Maldjian got in on the act on Rumson's third drive, plowing through the middle for a 14-yard touchdown run to put the Bulldogs up, 21-7, following James Hempstead's extra point with 11:50 to go in the second quarter. Maldjian finished with 85 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns, which, combined with Lucas's effort, drove Rumson's 404-yard effort on the ground.
Monmouth stayed in the game heading into the half by stopping Rumson on its last two drives of the second quarter and orchestrating a scoring drive to close it out. Senior Ryan Convery came on to quarterback the Falcons and completed a pair of passes to advance the ball to the Rumson 25, including an acrobatic 22-yard catch by senior Khalil Walker along the left sideline.
Rumson did not let the Falcons get closer than the 24 yard-line, but with one second left on the clock, senior Devon Johnson booted a 41-yard field goal as the second-quarter clock expired to draw his team within 21-10 at the half.
"Penalties hurt us (in the first half), for sure," Lucas said. "We usually don't do that but we were shooting ourselves in the foot today and we talked about cleaning it up in the second half. It wasn't perfect but we got it done."
After two empty possessions to finish the first half, Rumson scored on each of its first two possessions to seize control of the game, both of which ended on three-yard touchdown runs by Lucas.
Needing a score to keep their hopes alive, the Falcons got one on a clutch throw by Convery to Johnson to the left pylon on 4th-and-6 from the Bulldogs 16. On the ensuing kickoff, Monmouth executed an onside kick and pounced on the loose ball to get the ball right back.
The Bulldogs responded by forcing a three-and-out by the Falcons and on the first play of their next drive, Lucas broke off his biggest play of the game by hitting a crease off tackle and jetting 91 yards for the touchdown for a 41-17 Rumson lead with 11:32 left in the game.
"We said in the huddle that we really wanted to score and put this game away," Lucas said. "I saw some room on the right side, got a great block from tight end Brendan McLaughlin and just shot right out and scored."
Prior to Friday, 297 yards and four touchdowns were the previous career highs for Lucas, who reached both totals in week one vs. Raritan.
"Pete is great - in my opinion, a Division I football player," said McAllister, a highly-sought-after recruit in his own right at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds. "By all means. I've seen kids across the country and he's just as good as every kid I've seen at running back.
Johnson hauled in his second touchdown catch from Convery on Monmouth's next drive, this time from eight yards out. Johnson also pulled in the two-point conversion to cap the drive, which was highlighted by a 34-yard run by Convery on 3rd-and-13 to push the ball down to the Rumson 7 yard-line.
Maldjian capped the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run, which followed his 36-yard run to advance the ball to Monmouth's 10 yard-line.
Convery finished 11-for-18 with 105 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 43 yards on nine carries. Johnson finished with five catches for 60 yards, two touchdowns and the two-point reception.
While Rumson's running game ruled the day, senior quarterback Dan Harby turned in an efficient game throwing the ball, completing seven of his eight attempts in the first half for 76 yards before throwing just two incomplete passes in the second half.
Rumson-Fair Haven 48, Monmouth 25
|Monmouth (6-2, 4-1)||7||3||7||8||25|
|Rumson-FH (6-1, 5-1)||14||7||14||13||48|
R - Peter Lucas 19-yard run (James Hempstead kick)
M - Ian Fitzgerald 79-yard run (Devon Johnson kick)
R - Peter Lucas 1-yard run (James Hempstead kick)
R - Alex Maldjian 14-yard run (James Hempstead kick)
M - Devon Johnson 41-yard field goal
R - Peter Lucas 3-yard run (James Hempstead kick)
R - Peter Lucas 3-yard run (James Hempstead kick)
M - Devon Johnson 16-yard pass from Ryan Convery (Devon Johnson kick)
R - Peter Lucas 91-yard run (kick failed)
M - Devon Johnson 8-yard pass from Ryan Convery (Johnson pass from Convery)
R - Alex Maldjian 11-yard run (James Hempstead kick)
Rushing - M: Ian Fitzgerald 14-75, Ryan Convery 9-43, Dayshawn Porter 3-30, Devon Johnson 1-2, Patrick Bellucci 1-2; R: Peter Lucas 24-299, Alex Maldjian 8-85, Peter Crowley 5-12, Dan Harby 1-8, Thomas Forlenza 1-4, Stephen Edler 2-(-4)
Passing - M: Ryan Convery 11-18-0 105, Ian Fitzgerald 0-1-0 0; R: Dan Harby 7-10-0 76
Receiving - M: Devon Johnson 5-60, Ian Fitzgerald 3-22, Khalil Walker 1-22, Isaiah Brown 1-4, Patrick Bellucci 1-(-3); R: Ian O'Connor 1-34, Peter Lucas 1-19, Alex Maldjian 1-11, John McHeffey 2-8, Donovan Brennan 2-4