RUMSON - The No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II, an 8-0 record, and a win over nemesis Manasquan were sitting one yard away with 54 seconds left in a tie game on Friday night when Rumson-Fair Haven was faced with two choices.

Senior fullback Dylan Zohn ran for the game-winning one-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 54 seconds left in Rumson-Fair Haven's 22-15 victory over Manasquan. (Photo by Bill Normile)

First, the Bulldogs had to decide whether to go for it on fourth-and-goal or kick a field goal. Then they had to make the choice regarding who would get the ball if they did go for it. Head coach Bryan Batchler made the first decision, and then star tailback Charlie Volker, the Shore Conference's leading rusher, made the second one by calling for a teammate to get the ball with the game on the line.

The Bulldogs went for it, and fullback Dylan Zohn executed the play Volker called for, "22 Wedge,'' by battering his way up the middle and bouncing left and into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in a 22-15 Class A Central victory by the No. 4 Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0) over the No. 5 Warriors (6-2, 4-2) at Borden Stadium.

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"I was definitely surprised, but I wanted the ball so bad in that situation,'' Zohn said. "It's everybody's dream to get the ball when the game's on the line on fourth-and-goal from the one. I definitely felt great that the coaches trusted me there. We wanted the touchdown. We have so much trust in Connor Kelly, our new kicker, but we wanted that touchdown so bad to seal it."

"I was with 'Batch,''' Volker said. "I knew we were getting a nice push, so I had faith in Dylan that he could score. We were definitely going for it all the way."

On its previous possession, Rumson had driven 84 yards in 18 plays, consuming more than 10 minutes, only to have it end in a missed 26-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 15. However, three plays later, senior defensive back Sam Shaud recovered a fumble on a toss play by Manasquan at the Warriors' 9-yard line to jolt the Bulldogs back to life. Four plays later, they faced the momentous decision on fourth down as Batchler talked it over with offensive coordinator Charlie Pirrello.

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"My decision was, 'Let's go for it,' first of all, and that was the toughest decision, and then we got in the huddle and talked about what we want to run, and the kids said it,'' Batchler said. "We all thought '44 power' or '45 power' with Volker, but they were crashing off the end so much, and Volker, he says, 'We got wedge.' We got our strength and conditioning coach in the huddle saying, 'This is why we squat!' We got good movement and executed the play."

"I would (go for it), too,'' Manasquan head coach Jay Price said. "You got a kid like (Volker) in the backfield that everybody's worried about. (Batchler) called a great game in the second half. They ran the ball well, they executed well, and his kids didn't make mistakes. It's a good group."

Manasquan had a final chance to tie it, but Volker picked off a pass by senior quarterback Tucker Caccavale on fourth down in the final seconds to seal the win.

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Rumson's defense, which had not allowed more than one touchdown in a game all season, registered a second-half shutout and came up with three turnovers, all in crucial spots. Shaud's was the biggest, as it helped Rumson unofficially clinch the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II and guarantee two playoff games at Borden Stadium.

"I didn't know if it was live or not because I didn't know if he was throwing it back or if it was a pitch, but I just jumped on it,'' Shaud said about the fumble recovery. "I was just at the right place at the right time, I guess. They were the best team by far that we played in the regular season. We have the utmost respect for that team."

The victory also means that Rumson-Fair Haven and old rival Red Bank Catholic, the Shore Conference's No. 1 team, will square off in their Thanksgiving game with the Class A Central title on the line if RBC takes care of undermanned Monmouth on Saturday. As for Manasquan, the Warriors still appear like they will get the top seed in South Jersey Group III, so they have a chance to regroup and add to their Shore Conference-record 11 NJSIAA titles.

"We can fix missed tackles,'' Price said. "We can fix coverage mistakes. Walking away from this, does it hurt? Yeah, they're destroyed. We'll get their minds right, we'll get home, and we're still in pretty good shape. You can't question their effort, you can't question their heart, and you can't question their guts."

Rumson started the game off with a four-play, 41-yard scoring drive set up by a kickoff return by junior Sam Eisenstadt. Volker, who finished with 130 yards rushing on 27 carries, took a direct snap and scored on a 12-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

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Manasquan answered immediately with a 16-play, 67-yard drive that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass on a fade from Caccavale to junior tight end Tanner Cowley to tie the game at seven.

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After the Warriors' defense came up with another stop, they mounted an 11-play, 34-yard drive, but Eisenstadt came up with a clutch interception in the end zone for the Bulldogs to stifle it.

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The Warriors' defense came up with a three-and-out, and Manasquan punched in one more to take the lead into halftime. Caccavale capped a six-play, 57-yard drive when he found senior wideout Joe Fittin for a 30-yard touchdown. Fittin was outstanding in defeat with eight catches for 122 yards.

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Manasquan was attacking downfield against a Rumson secondary missing senior starter Chris Hubler, who is out for the season with a torn labrum suffered in a win over Monmouth last week, which forced star linebacker Tom Martello to have to play some safety for the first time.

"I thought their play-calling in the first half was fantastic,'' Batchler said.

After Fittin's touchdown grab, the Warriors then came out in a muddle huddle and surprisingly went for two, converting it when Fittin found Blaine Birch to make it 15-7 with 1:56 left in the first half.

Volker, who entered the game with a Shore Conference-best 1,382 yards rushing, was held to 33 yards rushing on eight carries in the first half. However, he came alive on Rumson's first drive of the third quarter, carrying the ball on nine of 10 plays for 63 yards and capping the drive with a two-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal to cut Manasquan's lead to a point with 4:39 left in the third quarter.

"Their opening drive of the second half, we missed about six or seven tackles and made some coverage mistakes,'' Price said. "Last year's game, we didn't make those mistakes (in a 14-9 win). This year we made those mistakes, and they capitalized on them and they won. When you're so evenly-matched, it comes down to that stuff."

"We just rallied our guys,'' Volker said. "Batchler said at half that we're a second-half football team. We knew that we just needed to wake up a little bit. We fixed the problems, and we got more possession time.''

Volker had a lot of success on the perimeter on the right side running behind 285-pound senior tackle Peter Righi, who picked up an offer from Monmouth University last week. Hawks head coach Kevin Callahan was on the Rumson sideline getting a first-hand look Friday night.

"When the holes opened up outside, I knew we were going to start rolling,'' Volker said. "(Righi) really picked it up (in the second half)."

Rumson tied the game when senior quarterback Chase Caruso, who made big throws all night, found senior wide receiver Billy Lyons in the back corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion pass with a defender bearing down on him.

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Manasquan nearly came right back and took the lead when Caccavale hit Fittin with a 45-yard pass to Rumson's 15-yard line, but the Rumson defense ended up forcing an incompletion on fourth-and-two from the Bulldogs' 7-yard line to kill the drive. They then embarked on their 10-minute march, starting the sequence of events that ultimately climaxed in a touchdown that Zohn won't soon forget.

Rumson was also undefeated going into last year's game at Manasquan and built a 9-0 lead before losing an emotional game in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The two teams have developed a good rivalry in recent seasons.

"Coach Batchler says they are the measuring stick for public schools, and to finally beat them is a big statement for us,'' Zohn said.

"We're the measuring stick now,'' Volker said.

Box score

Rumson-FH 22, Manasquan 15

.                                R                 M

First downs            14                 14

Rushes-yards     35-164           30-81

Passing                 7-9-0           13-24-2

Passing yards         78                168

Penalties              4-35               3-25

Fumbles-lost        1-0                  1-1

Manasquan (6-2, 4-2)      7 8 0 0 - 15

Rumson-FH (8-0, 5-0)    7 0 8 7 - 22

Scoring summary

R: Volker 12-yard run (Kelly kick).

M: Cowley 9-yard pass from Caccavale (Perez kick).

M: Fittin 30-yard pass from Caccavale (Birch pass from Fittin).

R: Volker 2-yard run (Lyons pass from Caruso).

R: Zohn 1-yard run (Kelly kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing - M: Murphy 22-66, Bianco 3-5, McAlary 3-7, Paturzo 1-11, Caccavale 1-(-8). R: Zohn 4-16, Volker 27-130, Shaud 2-15, Caruso 2-3.

Passing - M: Caccavale 13-24-2 168. R: Caruso 7-9-0 78.

Receiving - M: Fittin 8-122, Bianco 3-35, Cowley 1-9, Murphy 1-2. R: Shaud 1-(-1), Clayton 2-32, Lyons 3-34, Zohn 1-13.

Interceptions - R: S. Eisenstadt 1-0, Volker 1-0.